GLENDALE – Baseball had Jose Oquendo. Football, apparently, has Lorenzo Alexander.
That versatile player who possesses the rare skill and ability to assist their team in whatever fashion they may be called upon.
Oquendo is one of only a handful of MLB players to have played all nine positions on the diamond.
Alexander hasn’t quite reached that number, but he’s close.
“In the Giants game in ’07, I played five different positions,” he said, referring to his first season with the Washington Redskins.
Over his career, Alexander has played linebacker (his current position), defensive tackle, defensive end, spent some time along the offensive line plus had stints at fullback and tight end.
“That’s been my role on my team,” he said. “I was nicknamed the ‘One Man Gang’ and it’s because I can do a little bit of everything. It’s cool. That’s kind of been my niche. It’s not necessarily what I wanted to do coming in the league. You want to be a starter, but in order to play in this league, that’s what I had to do.”
Entering his seventh season, Alexander is finally getting that opportunity to be a starter. Through the first five days of training camp, he’s manned outside linebacker opposite Sam Acho.
“I’m definitely every excited. I think that’s everybody’s dream,” said Alexander, whose last start came in 2010. “Obviously, special teams is the way I’ve been able to make my living and stay in this league, so it’s something I’m going to still pride myself on while I’m here, being a leader on special teams as well.”
The 30-year-old former Cal Golden Bear earned his first career selection to the Pro Bowl last season, voted in as the NFC’s special teams representative after a career-high 31 special teams tackles.
His prowess in that area of the game is why head coach Bruce Arians believes Alexander, signed to a three-year contract after being a salary cap casualty in Washington, can be a successful linebacker, despite the limited experience.
“The energy and passion he brings to the game is something, I think, that is contagious,” Arians said. “Those type of guys — most sacks are effort; and there’s a few elite guys, but the rest that get sacks, it’s just motor. To be the NFC special teams Pro Bowl player that tells you all about the guy.”
Of course, now that he’s entrenched defensively, Alexander is going to have to decrease his workload on special teams.
“It’s a select few guys that can do that and do that at a high level on both sides because that’s really burning the candlestick at both ends,” he said. “In the past, I’ve been a special teamer that’s helped out on defense. This year, I’ll be an outside linebacker that’s helping on special teams.”
Alexander, who has only 13 starts in 92 career games, is out to prove people wrong.
“This year my focus is just getting after it. I’m a lot lighter now (244 pounds). I’m more explosive so I expect to be able to get (in the backfield),” he said. “(Being doubted has) never stopped me. I’ve never been the most athletic, but I tend to outwork guys. I’m going to continue to have that type of mentality, blue collar and just grind it out, wear guys down. At the end of the day, the outside linebacker’s job is to create some pressure, create some havoc against the quarterback and make him uncomfortable.”
But whatever the role, Alexander will not change his approach.
“Any time I’m on the field, I’m going to be giving 110 percent,” he said.
And for what it’s worth, his versatility on the field though does have its limits.
Alexander is not a kicker. “I’m not soft like that,” he joked. And he’s not a quarterback. “I don’t like getting hit,” he said. “I’d rather give the hitting.”