Paul revels in North success, seeks ‘redemption’ for Washington

Niles Paul is heading into his fourth NFL season and expects to concentrate more than ever on tight end. The 6-foot-1 233-pounder has 14 career receptions, but has played receiver, tight end and H-back since going in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.

What happens when you go 3-13, change coaches and find yourself with wounded pride in the NFL?

You get mad.

And that’s what Niles Paul has seen from the Washington Redskins in organized team activities, workouts and minicamps since Jay Gruden replaced Mike Shanahan six months ago.

“This is clearly a redemption year for us, and we want to let that be known,” Paul said Wednesday night.

The former Nebraska receiver was at Central High to help with an Offense/Defense Football Camp, sponsored by USA Football and the NFL Foundation. About 75 high school players attended the free clinic directed by Steve Warren and his DREAM Omaha Foundation.

Soon, Paul will be returning to the NFL grind, and a healthy Robert Griffin at quarterback is a big reason behind the Redskins’ optimism.

“He’s 100 percent healthy right now,” Paul said. “I mean, we’re all working in OTAs and minicamps and he looks great. He looks amazing. He’s not wearing his knee brace anymore, so there’s no question he’s 100 percent.”

Paul is heading into his fourth season and expects to concentrate more than ever on tight end. The 6-foot-1 233-pounder has 14 career receptions, but has played receiver, tight end and H-back since going in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.

But his “bread and butter” remains special teams, and Paul averaged 20.6 yards on 20 kickoff returns last season.

“I’ve made a nice little name for myself with special teams, and that’s just been my attitude and the demeanor I have,” he said. “From the first day I walked in I said I’m going to do whatever it takes to be on the team and try to impact the team in some way.”

Washington is trying to get back to being the 10-6 team that made the NFC playoffs in 2012. The Redskins finished last season with eight straight losses, leading to the firing of Shanahan on Dec. 30.

“It’s a business,” Paul said. “You understand that. I think everybody understands that.

“We’ve welcomed Coach Gruden and he’s welcomed us, and it’s been fun. We’ve had some good times through minicamps, and we’ve got some good work in.”

More from Niles Paul:

Q: What do you think of Omaha North’s recent football success, with back-to-back trips to the Class A title game and a state championship last fall?

A: I talk to Coach (Larry) Martin all the time, and it’s been that way since I graduated (in 2007). We have a great relationship. And to see the success the program is having is amazing.

Q: Did you see some of this coming for North?

A: When I was there, we pretty much won our district every year. Coach Martin, he’s such a good coach and he’s done such a great job with the program, and you just knew that with the right team he could make it happen.

Q: You’ve bought football jerseys and pants for North the last two years. What does that mean to you to help your old program?

A: It means the world to me. I owe everything that I am to my high school and just this area specifically, and there’s a lot more that I want to do to help out in this area. But as of now, that was the contribution that I could make to give back to where I’m from and give back to the football program.

Q: Does being around these kids take you back to what it was like being young and hungry and only having the dream to play in college or the NFL?

A: I’m grateful that they came out here and that they want to get this extra work in, because they didn’t have to be here. I know when I was in high school, I did everything I could. I was at everything ... anything that I could get involved in. So having them out here is a good feeling, and I told them I’m proud of them and happy they came.

Q: With three years behind you in the NFL, how does your outlook change with the Redskins?

A: I definitely have high goals for myself, being that I’m a veteran now. I’m more focused on the team and just kind of trying to have the best outcome for the team, and doing what I’ve got to do for the team.

Q: Did you tell them to draft your old Nebraska teammate Spencer Long?

A: I didn’t. They asked me about him. What I didn’t know is that he was that big now. I remember Spencer when he was a smaller guy. That’s Coach Dobson (NU strength and conditioning coach James Dobson) right there.

Q: I’m assuming you’ve seen Phil Bates’ skirmish with Richard Sherman in Seattle? Any ribbing for your former North teammate and friend?

A: I told him he surprised me because I’ve never taken Phil for much of a fighter. He put up a good fight. But I definitely had to let him know that you don’t put your hands on the merchandise of a team like that. That’s the quickest way to get gone.

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