As fans freak out over him, Troy Apke just wants to help Washington win

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As fans freak out over him, Troy Apke just wants to help WFT win originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Troy Apke the person and the discussion about Troy Apke the football player literally couldn't be more opposite.

Apke the person? He's calm, pleasant to talk to and largely focused on contributing to the only NFL franchise he's ever known.

The discussion about Apke the player, though? It's fiery, sometimes unpleasant and once again in the forefront now that the 26-year-old is returning for another season with the Washington Football Team.

Apke, of course, has his flaws (as folks on Twitter will happily point to). His turn as starting safety for the defense in 2020 was often a disaster, and eventually, he was benched because of his poor performance. Now, he's attempting to transition to cornerback, a role where he's shown both a bit of growth as well as how much more room there is for that growth.

However, the 2018 fourth-round selection's primary reason for remaining employed by Washington isn't because of his work on defense.

In fact, coach Ron Rivera succinctly summed up why he opted to keep Apke in a post-cuts press conference on Tuesday.

"'Trap' is one of the best special teams players in the league," Rivera said. "I mean, people have to game plan for him as a gunner, as a kickoff coverage guy because of his speed. He's a good vice guy on punt return team and on a kickoff return he plays in the front line."

One day later — as Burgundy and Gold fans argued about the decision to retain Apke over the likes of Jimmy Moreland, Jeremy Reaves and Danny Johnson — he was asked for his reaction to Rivera's serious praise. He politely agreed with it.

"I think I am one of the best," he said. "I just go out there and try to do the best I can every day, get better every day. What I put on the field is from all that."

The defensive back did admit that Monday and Tuesday, when Rivera and his staff were shrinking their depth chart down to 53 names, was a stressful stretch. Yet he was also confident in what he displayed during the last couple of months of the offseason.

"Obviously, you've got a couple nerves," Apke said. "But I think what I put out in preseason and everything, I did my best. I put everything out there that I could've. So it was really up to them whether they wanted me or not and they did, so I'm happy about that."

In addition to identifying Apke as one of the sport's top specialists, Rivera called him a "luxury" because Washington included 11 total defensive backs on its initial 53-man haul. Ideally, Apke wouldn't be needed against an opposing offense and would merely be asked solely to tear it up in football's third facet. 

There may come a time, though, where he's required to step into the defensive huddle, and that might immediately lead to issues and regret over sticking with him as opposed to, say, Moreland, who's more reliable versus the pass.

When the topic of his development at corner came up, Apke explained that more reps are leading to more understanding of the position.

"I've just got more comfortable out there," he said. "At first, it's different. You're out there on an island, it's a lot of one-on-ones, things like that. I think I just got more comfortable, a lot more patient at it. I'm still working on it."

"We saw some flashes," Rivera commented.

As he looked back on his climb from Penn State to his current standing as a fourth-year pro, Apke recalled going out for a couple of job interviews following his junior campaign in school. He didn't know what his future held, so he just wanted to be sure to prepare for an alternate career.

Fortunately for him, his present gig is set to continue, so he won't have to hurry to find a copy of his résumé. Instead, he's going to hunt for opportunities to make Washington better while his detractors hunt for chances to highlight his shortcomings.

"I think I can help this team win games," Apke said. "Wherever they want me, I think I can play multiple positions and obviously help on special teams. I'm happy I'm here, I'm happy with this group of coaches, it's all good."