ASHBURN, Va. (WUSA) -- To understand why Perry Riley was the only Redskin wearing pants with a heat index of 110 degrees, you'll have to travel backwards exactly one year.
On the very first day of Redskins training camp in 2011, self-proclaimed tough guy, Perry Riley, wore pants to practice. Riley did everything but live up to the macho persona wearing pants in the heat precedes.
"I pretty much passed out. I had the IV's and stuff. I couldn't even finish practice," remembered the 24-year-old middle linebacker.
The failure of his conditioning ate away at Riley's conscience all throughout last season, even as he found himself emerging as a starter over Rocky McIntosh. He was still a productive player -- recording 68 tackles and a sack in 16 games -- but it was evident to Riley that he wasn't living up to his full potential.
So he became a gym rat, specifically focusing on cardio, as soon as the Redskins 5-11 season concluded. He and teammates Lorenzo Alexander, Chris Wilson and Rob Jackson went relentlessly hard in the gym, training at Sports and Health.
"Our trainer had us doing all kinds of explosive work, conditioning stuff. I could feel my heart rate improving almost daily," Riley said.
The result? The linebacker dropped four pounds, down to 238, and proclaimed he's in the best shape of his life. And that's exactly why he wore pants during Thursday's scorching temperatures out in Ashburn.
"I had to prove it to myself that I have the stamina this year to meet any challenge," spoke Riley.
Now that he's achieved his goal of being in tip-top shape, Riley has other ambitions to conquer, like becoming a household name in Washington D.C.
"I expect to be the breakout player. I trained my butt off this
offseason. I know the playbook a lot better. This is my year. It's time," responded the convincing third-year player.
Riley couldn't ask for a better tag-team partner to tutor him along the way than 37-year-old London Fletcher. The Redskins captain totaled 166 tackles in 2011, astonishingly a career high.
Since his arrival in the burgundy and gold in 2007, Fletcher has been known throughout the NFL for his vocal leadership in the locker room and on the field. And Riley will need every bit of it, seeing that 2012 will be his first as the incumbent starter. Surprisingly enough, it isn't Fletcher's constant chatter that Riley has taken away from number 59.
"I learn the most just by watching him, honestly," spoke Riley. "He comes to work everyday. He never takes a day off. This is his 15th
year and he practices like there is a game everyday. That there alone
makes me not want to let him down. I have to match his intensity."
Fletcher has been pleased with Riley's young career thus far.
"Perry was learning kind of on the fly as he went. He was here for the offseason to learn the position. Starting those last seven or eight games last year was valuable experience," said Fletcher.
So what is Riley's plan to better impact the defense? By producing more than the 22 turnovers the team logged last year.
"This is my third year in the system, I know the playbook, I'm in the best shape of my life. It's time to make big plays," said Riley.
As far as the pants go, Riley said he expects to continue the trend.
"I don't think every day will be as hot as today. So I probably will," smiled Riley.