SPORTS

Chris Neild defies odds, shines in Redskins opener

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Neild has his head shaved and his chin enveloped in a reddish-brown beard that would look more at home in professional wrestling. He shaved the beard it the day after the draft and has let it grow ever since, serving, he says, "like a shock absorber" when he fastens the chin strap.

Neild (95), who nearly wasn't taken in the 2011 NFL Draft, made a huge splash in his debut. (Photo: Associated Press)

"I'm pretty superstitious, too," he said, "so I'm just going to let it go."

And here's a dirty little secret: His first sack on Sunday was total happenstance. The crowd noise was such that Neild didn't hear the signal for the change in the blitz, so he went the wrong way and collided with teammate Kedric Golston before getting to Manning.

"We were close to the end zone. It was loud in that part of the stadium," Neild said. "That play, I was just zoned in. It was a missed assignment, but it turned out pretty good."

History shows that the penultimate NFL draft selection is not necessarily a throwaway pick. Eleven of the last 13 have played at least one game in the NFL, with Alfonso Boone (2000) leading with the way with 129 games for Chicago, Kansas City and San Diego.

"Anytime a guy gets two sacks, I don't think you are expecting that the first game of his rookie season, especially for a nose tackle," coach Mike Shanahan said. "But Chris has that type of mindset."

Neild was part of a banner day for first-time Redskins, most of them obtained at bargain prices. Three of Washington's four touchdowns were scored by new guys Tim Hightower, Jabar Gaffney and Ryan Kerrigan. Hightower came from Arizona for backup defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday. Gaffney came from Denver for Jeremy Jarmon, who has since been cut. Kerrigan was a first-round draft pick.

But Neild's day was the most improbable. What can he possibly do for an encore on Sunday, when the Redskins host Arizona?

He answered that question with a laugh.

"I've kind of been told — I've got a lot to live up to this week," he said.

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