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Washington pulling for old teammates in Super Bowl

By Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / January 23, 1998

Sports can be a cruel business at times.A year ago, Lionel Washington, a graduate of Lutcher High School, looked tobe on his way to the Super Bowl for the first time in his career.

Washington’s Denver Broncos, the number one seed in the AFC and holdersof the home-field advantage, were a heavy favorite to sweep through theplayoffs on their way to New Orleans for Super Bowl XXXI. But theJacksonville Jaguars popped Denver’s balloon, upsetting the Broncos in thedivisional playoffs.

Denver released Washington in the off-season and he caught on with theOakland Raiders. Now, the Broncos are in San Diego for Super Bowl XXXIIagainst the Green Bay Packers. “That’s the way the game works sometimes,” Washington said.

Washington said he doesn’t regret his decision, however, even though hesaid the 1997 season was the most disappointing of his career, both froma team and personal standpoint. The Raiders finished the season with a 4-12 record, the worst in their history, and fired coach Joe Bugel after justone season. Washington was hampered by a severe hamstring pull andplayed only eight games, collecting two interceptions and 25 tackles.

“It wasn’t very good,” Washington said of the season. “It didn’t work outthe way I thought it would.”Washington was at Leon Godchaux Junior High in Reserve Wednesdaymorning, presenting certificates to Miss Irene Burl’s seventh grade socialstudies class for their achievements in the Junior Achievement program.Washington advised the students to work hard and concentrate on theirstudies.

“Whatever you want, you have to work hard for it,” Washington said. “Studyand maintain what you learn and apply it to your outside life.”

Washington enjoys working with youngsters and said he would like to gointo coaching when his football career is over and be in it long enough tomake a difference in children’s lives. Washington is also currentlypreparing for his annual football camp in the River Parishes. Last year’scamp drew over 700 youngsters and 40 professional athletes despiteinclement weather.

Washington is contemplating returning for another season in 1998. He isno longer under contract with the Raiders and is free to talk with otherteams. He also said he has received opportunities to get into collegecoaching.

“I don’t want my career to end the way last year turned out,” Washingtonsaid.

As for the state of the NFL, Washington said it has grown a lot since hestarted playing, mainly because of television. He said players made around$50,000 a year when he started his career and now the minimal salary isaround $450,000. He also said the athletes have gotten better and faster.

And as for the Super Bowl, Washington is pulling for his old teammates inDenver. Washington came into the league with Denver quarterback JohnElway and said he had the honor of playing with him for a couple ofseasons. He said the game could come down to how Denver handles the ball.”If Denver plays without mistakes, they have a chance of winning,”Washington said.

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