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“You ever been in a car wreck?” Jason Hatcher asks. “How did it feel?”

The 33-year-old defensive end — now in his 10th NFL season, with 140 regular season games and too many practices to recall under his belt — was trying to explain what his 6-foot-6, 293-pound body feels like the morning after a football game.

He thought for a couple of seconds, scratching his beard. Then the car wreck analogy popped into his head.

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“Sore. Stiff, right?” he continued. “Do that, in my case, about 40 times a day. See how you feel. That’s about how it would feel.”

The repeated collisions have taken their toll. So, too, have the many squats, lunges, the crouches in a three-point stance, the explosions off the line, the sprints to quarterbacks and ball carriers.

Father Time is flexing his muscle, Hatcher knows. But the defensive lineman is determined to squeeze out every last drop and finish his career and the Washington Redskins’ season on a strong note.

On his quest for age-defying effectiveness, Hatcher has found that humility, creativity and balance are all necessary.

This season, he has had to admit to himself, to teammates and coaches that his body no longer allows him to rebound quickly from those punishing Sundays.

A proud man who has always embraced leadership roles, Hatcher has always preferred to show rather than tell. But with his joints stiff and throbbing, Hatcher has had to beg off of Wednesday practices. He watches from the sideline, then gets back to work on Thursday and Friday, sometimes as a limited participant.

“It sucks because I can’t go out there and lead by example,” Hatcher said. “Your actions speak louder than words. . . . It’s so hard to do when you’re not out there in practice. . . . That’s the part that sucks, but I’ve got to do what’s best and just be out there with them on Sundays.”

The pace-yourself approach is new for Hatcher this year but not for his career. He handled a similar workload later in his eight-year tenure in Dallas, and that helped keep him fresh, he said. But last season after signing with Washington, as a new member of the team, Hatcher didn’t feel the freedom to request an altered workload.

“You have to follow the protocol of the team, especially as a new guy,” recalled Hatcher, whom the Redskins in 2014 signed to a four-year, $27.5 million deal with $10.5 million guaranteed in the first year. “I mean, I know I’m a vet and all that, but you’ve got other guys that are established on the team, and you’ve got to go by what they do.”

But Hatcher, who in the summer of 2014 had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and spent much of training camp working to regain full strength, paid the price for the heavy workload.

After recording 21/2 sacks in the second game of the season, Hatcher mustered only half a sack in the next six games. He finished the year with 51/2and went on injured reserve with knee problems, missing the final three games of the season.

“It was bad. It was bad,” Hatcher recalled. “I’m the type of guy that I don’t complain and I don’t give up. So I took my knee to the limits. So when I went on IR, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t walk.”

Hatcher went into the offseason convinced he needed to change if he expected to make it through another NFL season. He altered his offseason training program and also embraced the new regimen installed by strength coach Mike Clark. Hatcher also changed his eating habits. He lost weight to ease pressure on his joints.

See more at washingtonpost.com

The Washington Post: At 33, Redskins’ Jason Hatcher uses yoga and days off to preserve his body in-season

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