ASHBURN – On Tuesday afternoon, I sat down with Redskins center Tony Bergstrom for a one-on-one chat.
Bergstrom has been with the Redskins for about a month now. He was brought in knowing he could play multiple positions as multiple Redskins offensive linemen were down at the time.
After Chase Roullier’s injury, Bergstrom started at center versus the Giants. He’s played tackle and guard in his career as well. His only snaps at center came with the Raiders in 2015. He’s expected to start again Thursday in Dallas.
CH: I’m going to start with a very simple, open-ended question: how different is playing center than tackle?
TB: It’s pretty different. You get out at tackle and there’s a lot of space out there and all that space is a little intimidating, so center’s a little more my wheelhouse. It’s kinda one of those things like – you get to the NFL, you start out outside at tackle and they kinda realize well you’re probably not athletic enough to play out there. So they move you into guard. Then they realize you’re not athletic enough for that and they move you into center. Eventually you’re not athletic enough for that and they show you the bus stop.
CH: When you look at the mental responsibilities of a tackle versus a center though, that ups the difficulty a little bit though right? You don’t get to just stay in your box and block somebody.
TB: Well, yeah. As you move in you get a lot less space but a lot more on your plate mentally. Tackles, I think it’s 90% of the time you block the defensive end, so it’s a little easier out there. But at center you have to make all the points and depending on the team it’s a little more difficult inside.
CH: If you can look at me you can probably figure that even if I played football, I didn’t play offensive line. Bit of a slighter frame. How difficult is it to identify the mike linebacker or any of those other responsibilities that you have? How does that process work as best as you can describe it to a layperson?
TB: It honestly depends on the team. Some teams are pretty straight forward. They come out and there’s four down guys and three linebackers and the middle one is the mike. It’s pretty simple. Especially when you start spreading guys out and you have a lot of receivers on the field things get a little tricky. They start bringing safeties down into the box…so it just depends. I remember when I first started out, it was hard. I stood up there at the line and I’d look around. There’s times you’d see me on TV and I’m just turning my head back and forth trying to get the whole picture. Things have gotten a little easier. You kinda pick up little tips and tricks as you go along. You can start doing it pretty quick. It’s easier the longer you do it, but starting off it’s pretty tough.
CH: When you look at how the responsibility is divided up between you and Kirk, how’s that played out? How helpful has he been able to be in his third year as a starter?
TB: Kirk is the fail-safe. When I screw up, it’s his job to fix me. So, that’s where it’s pretty good. Kirk always kinda has the final say. That’s the way it usually is. He’s gotta know who he’s hot off of. He’s the one who’s ultimately got the final decision. He’s the president. He has veto power over anything I do. He’s always right, so that takes something off of my plate cause in the end, if our protection is wrong it’s his fault for not correcting me.
CH: So, to recap, it really is the quarterback’s fault. That’s what we’ve learned.
TB: (Grinning) Absolutely! Never my fault. Never! The buck stops there (points to Cousins locker).
CH: To the actual snapping of the football. Before a couple of weeks ago when you started snapping as the future starting center of this team, when was the last time you snapped a football?
TB: I snapped when I was up in Baltimore. I mean not often, but we’d do stuff after practice. The O-Line coach up there, Joe (D’Alessandris)…everybody had to snap. Anyone who could snap had to snap after practice. It’s like riding a bike. Once you do it a few times, you’re back in the groove.
CH: You played center for a few games in Oakland, but prior to that how much center had you played compared to the other offensive line positions?
TB: None. I played a little in high school and little league, but we were a triple option team. I couldn’t shotgun snap. So that was something I had to pick up on the fly. In high school we were in a four-point stance as a center…so none.
CH: Last question, if you could pick one of the offensive line positions to play for the rest of your career, what would it be?
TB: Oh, center. For sure. You always have help. It’s great! (laughing) You can play a long time at center!
As we closed the interview, I said he’s living his best life as a center. He laughed. He didn’t deny it.
Follow @CraigHoffman on Twitter