ASHBURN, Va. -- The journey caused him to pause for a moment before the game. That's when it hit Chris Baker. That's when the tears started to form in his eyes.
He was no longer just an undrafted guy trying to make the roster. He was heading onto the field as a starter in the opening game of the season.
"It's an overwhelming feeling," said Baker, entering his third season. "Before the game I broke down in tears and said, 'Thank God I'm a starter.' It was emotional. It was like a dream come true and you finally realize this is me, this is my opportunity."
Another opportunity presents itself Sunday and for the next eight weeks as he'll shift from end to nose tackle, replacing the injured Barry Cofield.
Here are a few things to know about Baker:
He prefers nose tackle: At 6-foot-2, 335 pounds, Baker is well suited to playing inside. But it's also his more natural position, the one he was playing before moving to end. They put him out there because he was starting to play well and they wanted him on the field.
Now he returns inside.
"I'm built like a nose tackle rather than an end," he said. "I've always had the athleticism to play end so it was an easy transition for me."
It's an opportunity.
"You never want someone to get hurt but at the same time the competitor in you, if you want to play the position, the only way you can get that position is if someone gets hurt," Baker said. "So when that person gets hurt, you have to seize that opportunity."
The transition will be easier than at end: Because Baker has played this spot in the past, there isn't as much to learn. Cofield, for example, had never played nose before joining the Washington Redskins in 2011 so he had to learn new blocking angles and read the offense from a new spot. That's not the case with Baker.
In a nutshell: At end, he had to maintain his leverage in a certain gap or else. At nose, he can shoot one way or another and be OK.
"Being out in space is a lot harder than lining up over a center and taking on double teams," he said. "You have more freedom to mess up per se. But at end you have no room for error so it's easier for me inside. Now, if I'm a little behind the center [after the snap] I won't be wrong -- you can play front side or back side -- but as an end I can be completely wrong. "
He's different than Cofield: And Baker's style can be effective, which is why the coaches are confident in him. Here's Baker's take: "Barry is quicker and gets upfield more, but I'm more powerful and stout. We have different playing styles but we both get the job done."
And here's Jason Hatcher on Baker: "He's just real effective and disruptive in the middle. He plays low and he's real strong."
Baker likes to be playful: That's what you would expect from a guy with nicknames like Swaggy and Big Wiggle. That's good -- and sometimes too much.
"He's a cool guy, but sometimes he has to know when to entertain and not entertain," Hatcher said. "Sometimes he over-entertains. I've been on his butt about that. This is not Hollywood. We have to play football first. He's a great person. He's like a little brother to me. I'm trying to get some of his ways out of him. He's a little nut case sometimes."
Guilty as charged says the self-described best dancer on the team.
"Without question you have to be serious when it's time to be serious," he said. "When it's time to joke, I can do that too."