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Brandon Banks #16 of the Washington Redskins returns a punt for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of a preseason game at FedExField on September 1, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
95 yards. 13 seconds. One play.
When you’re Brandon Banks, it doesn’t take long to score a touchdown -- and possibly a roster spot in the process.
With his scintillating scamper down the sideline in a 29-24 win against the Buccaneers, the Redskins' diminutive return man all but guaranteed he’ll be playing in Washington this season.
Head coach Mike Shanahan told reporters after the game that Banks’ return was “the difference in the game.” Knee problems be damned, Banks is a sparkplug Shanahan cannot do without.
“I told him ‘you’re doing that on a bad knee. Just imagine when you get back right how it’s going to be,’” Donte Stallworth said following the game.
“It’s always good when you can see young guys step in and be fearless and make plays and do really well,” he added.
After a breakout rookie season in 2010, Banks missed the past two preseason games, causing some to speculate he would be left off the final roster for a combination of reasons.
First, the offseason nightclub incident that left Banks with stab wounds raised serious concerns about his character. Committing to him also meant committing to whatever baggage he has -- and that’s a risk, especially with the Redskins trying to distance themselves from off-field drama.
Second, Banks’ injured knee has been an issue since he rushed back from surgery midway through the 2010 campaign. It’s rare to see him without a huge bag of ice strapped to his leg after a game or practice, and it’s certainly prevented him from making even more of an impact when he has been on the field.
Finally, the depth at receiver this year hasn’t worked in his favor. Banks is too small to play a role on offense, thus relegating him solely to special teams duty. While this plays to his strong suit as a return man, it didn’t give him the versatility of a Niles Paul or a Terrence Austin.
However, not one player on the roster possesses the ability to score any time they touch the ball.
“That was exactly what I needed,” he said. “The first preseason game I almost [scored] and I don’t like the almost, so it felt good to get in the endzone again.”
Thursday it was classic Banks, shooting past defenders before turning on the jets in open field. Then a moment of uncertainty as officials reviewed whether or not he had flipped the ball out of his hands in celebration before crossing the goal line. True to form, Banks lives life on the edge, but the play was upheld and he had his moment of vindication.
“I was just hoping and praying that it’d go my way,” he said. “By the way I was looking at it, I [thought] it was a touchdown. If we [were] at Tampa I don’t think it would have gone our way, but I’m glad [it did].”
Banks will still have to wait for the official word Saturday when the Redskins are required to trim their roster from 80 to 53 players, but at this point that might very well be a formality. In the blink of an eye, he affirmed his value and for better or worse, could be here to stay.
But don’t tell him that.
“I feel the same way I always feel,” he said. “I can lose my job any given day. Every day I’m going to approach it like I could lose it, so I’m prepared for whatever.”