Lucas at Large: Rabach remains positive as lockout drags on

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FB_110701_Rabach_Casey_NFL.jpgCasey Rabach and Bill Ferrario were playfully jousting  -- "teeing each other up'' -- before participating in the recent Legends of Wisconsin Classic golf outing at University Ridge.

It was like the Sand Trap Time Machine had transported them back to the late '90s when they were key components -- Rabach at center, Ferrario at left guard -- on the Badgers' offensive line.

"Maybe I should ask the questions,'' Ferrario chided Rabach, who was preparing to do an interview. "I want to keep track of how many big words he uses.''

There is one word that Rabach would like to expunge from his vocabulary: lockout.

"I know we have the right people representing both sides in this disagreement,'' Rabach said of the on-going labor dispute between team owners and the NFL Players Association.

"I'm positively optimistic this is going to get done before training camp is suppose to start ... but I've always been an optimist; it's kind of the way I live my life.''

When all of the issues are finally resolved and everybody goes back to work, Rabach, 33, will be entering his 11th pro season, seventh with the Washington Redskins.

Since being selected in the third round of the 2001 draft by the Baltimore Ravens -- the Redskins signed him as a free agent in 2005 -- he has been a model of consistency and durability.

Rabach, an offensive captain in Washington, has started 111 out of a possible 112 regular season games; a streak that dates back to 2004 and his final year in Baltimore.

Jeff Backus, Alan Faneca, Olin Kreutz, Todd McClure and Casey Wiegmann are the only offensive linemen in the NFL to have started every game during that same time span.

Rabach has been one of the few constants with the Redskins, whose general lack of continuity on the roster and sidelines has resulted in four straight last-place finishes within their division, the NFC East.

Despite that history, Rabach is still optimistic, what else?

When asked about John Beck, who looms as the starting quarterback, Rabach said, "He's a guy who's hungry and football smart. He just needs a chance to show what he's capable of doing.''

The same could be said of the NFL's rookie class.

Those players are waiting for their chance to show what they can do, once the lockout is over.

In this context, what would Rabach tell the UW trio of Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt and Bill Nagy?

"Just be patient and ready because this thing is going to get worked out,'' Rabach said.

What will be their biggest adjustment to playing the offensive line in the NFL?
"It's just a totally new atmosphere,'' said Rabach, a Sturgeon Bay native. "I know it was a big change for me after playing with the same guys (Ferrario and Dave Costa) for four years at Wisconsin.

"That was comforting.  The fact is when you make that jump and transition; it's all different and difficult at first. But it works itself out. I know those guys love football and it will work for them.''

What has been the most disruptive element of the lockout to Rabach' off-season preparation?

"The main thing is that you're not around your teammates,'' he said. "And you're not getting the work that you're used to getting over the year. That's the biggest impact: the lack of continuity.

"It's the day-in and day-out grind (of OTAs and training camp) that builds relationships and that kind of sets you up for the season. Other than that, it's business as usual.''

As one of the 'Skins captains, Rabach has helped organize three workouts on a high school field.

"I'm hoping it pays off dividends in the end,'' he said. "We just didn't want to show up in late July or in August, whenever it is, and that would be the first day we've been together.''

Standing a few feet away, Ferrario said, "Get this feud over; quit screwing us retired players.''

Both laughed. That was par for the course between these two old friends and UW teammates.

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