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Posted at 07:10 PM ET, 07/23/2014

Gruden happy with Griffin’s physical and mental health entering camp


Robert Griffin III jokes with Coach Jay Gruden during minicamp. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND — Redskins coach Jay Gruden expressed encouragement over the physical and mental state of quarterback Robert Griffin III as he prepares to kick off his third NFL season, but only the second full-on training camp of his career.

Griffin last season spent the offseason rehabbing from the reconstruction of his right knee, and he didn’t receive clearance to take part in 11-on-11 drills until the third week of training camp. Griffin didn’t play at all during the preseason, but then opened the season as the starter and endured a trying second season.

Griffin practiced without limitation this offseason and enters training camp as the unquestioned starter. The quarterback has previously said that the ability to carry a full workload this offseason has helped his development and introduction to an overhauled offensive system. Asked about Griffin’s progress leading up to camp, Gruden agreed.

“From a health standpoint, we feel good about where he is there. Obviously, he’s in great shape. … Physical condition is not an issue,” Gruden said on the eve of his first practice. “Mental condition, we feel is excellent. [Offensive coordinator] Sean [McVay] has done an excellent job with him. Above-the-neck plays, he’s doing a great job — command of the game, in the huddle, his audibles and the running game have been excellent. He’s in his third year, and he’s still going to make mistakes here and there. But the key for him is to learn from his mistakes and not make the same ones over and over, and just continue to get better every day.”

Gruden continued, “He knows the tempo, he knows what has to go into making him a great quarterback. He has a long way to go, and he understands that. It’s physical and mental preparation. He’s got a great understanding and great feel for that as a young guy.”

Gruden said his goal for Griffin this training camp is simple.

“Repetition. Reps, reps, reps,” the coach explained. “You can never have too many reps. You can run the same play 10 different times and might get 10 different defenses. The more you see that play against different defenses, the more you see the blitzes and what you need to handle as the quarterback, stepping up in the pocket, his fundamentals, his footwork. It’s very difficult to miss an entire training camp and preseason then come in Week 1 and say, ‘Here’s the ball. Go play.’ It’s very difficult. So all quarterbacks need the reps. All quarterbacks want the reps.”

Gruden didn’t go into detail when asked to breakdown what aspects Griffin needs to improve upon the most. But accuracy and decision-making ranked among the quarterback’s problem areas in Year 2. A season after ranking among the league leaders with a completion percentage of 65.6 while throwing 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions, Griffin saw his completion percentage dip, and he threw 12 interceptions to go with 16 touchdown passes.

Gruden would like Griffin to improve on all fronts, however.

“I could sit here and talk for 35, 40 minutes talking about what he needs to work on. I could do the same for Tom Brady,” he said. “That’s just the position. Every position on the field requires training both mentally and physically and that’s not going to change. As long as you’re an active football player, someone’s out for your job, you’re getting older and you have to maintain your level of competitiveness.”

Helping Griffin recapture the magic of his rookie year ranks among Gruden’s highest priorities as the new coach of the Redskins.

Maintaining a healthy relationship with Griffin also carries high importance after the marriage between Griffin and former coach Mike Shanahan ended in a nasty divorce.

Asked about the player-coach relationship, Gruden said, “Happiness comes with wins. Nobody’s going to be happy if we’re 2-14. Our whole goal is to make sure we make him as comfortable as possible with this system, and when he’s out there on Sundays, that he’s comfortable with the direction that we’re going. If we can make him feel comfortable and put him in that comfort zone and place where he can succeed, I feel like we’ll have a much better chance for this franchise to be successful. Our relationship is what it is. My relationship with all the players hopefully, is a good one, is a strong one, where I’m the coach, they’re the player, and they know I’ve got their back and we’re going to do everything we can to help them.”

By  |  07:10 PM ET, 07/23/2014 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  Jay Gruden, Robert Griffin III, Training camp

Posted at 06:26 PM ET, 07/23/2014

Jay Gruden seeks tempo, energy at Redskins training camp


Jay Gruden, here during a practice in June, says he expects Jim Haslett’s defense to change things up. (Richard Lipski/Associated Press)

RICHMOND — As a first-year NFL head coach, Jay Gruden had no shortage of mentors or experiences to draw upon in crafting the schedule for the Washington Redskins’ training camp.

So the agenda for the next 20 days at the Redskins’ facility in Richmond will borrow a bit from the Cincinnati Bengals, where Gruden, 47, served as offensive coordinator. It will also borrow from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he served on the staff of his elder brother Jon’s Super Bowl champion squad. No doubt it will also reflect takeaways from past Redskins coaches, and other NFL coaches.

But ultimately, it will bear Gruden’s imprint, the coach said Wednesday. And its hallmarks will be a quick tempo, high energy and an emphasis on fundamentals and repetition. In hopes of getting peak energy from his players amid the sweltering heat and humidity, Gruden has scheduled the tougher daily workout in the morning, with the walk-through in the afternoon, flip-flopping custom under Mike Shanahan.

“You try to learn from history,” Gruden said after a closed conditioning session involving all but four of the roughly 90 players who’ll vie for a place on the Redskins’ 53-man roster. “But ultimately, it’s your team and your stamp. And you have to do it your way and feel good about it and feel confident in your ability to lead and coach and not worry about the second-guessing. Because it’s going to come eventually: We’re going to get second-guessed.”

In many respects, there is no place for Gruden to go except up in his NFL coaching debut. The Redskins finished 3-13 under Shanahan last season, failing to win a single game in their division and eking out just one victory in 12 NFC matchups overall.

If any members of that squad return to training camp with a chip on their shoulder as a result, Gruden couldn’t be more pleased.

“Anytime you lose the last one — whether you go 2-14 or 11-5 (As the Bengals did last season) — you should have a chip on your shoulder,” Gruden said.

“We don’t have anybody coming from [Super Bowl champion] Seattle, so everybody in this locker room should have a child chip on their shoulder and should be eager to get back on the field and excited to play.”

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

More from The Post:

Cornerbacks Richard Crawford, Tracy Porter cleared to practice

Hatcher, three others open camp on PUP list

Training camp: Five story lines on defense | offense

Mailbag: On Gruden’s pedigree | Sheinin: On Gruden’s journey

More NFL coverage:  Home page | D.C. Sports Bog | The Early Lead | Fancy Stats

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @lizclarketweet | @JReidPost | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

By  |  06:26 PM ET, 07/23/2014 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  Jay Gruden, Training camp

Posted at 05:18 PM ET, 07/23/2014

Cornerbacks Richard Crawford, Tracy Porter cleared to practice


Richard Crawford missed all of last season after tearing ligaments in his left knee during the preseason. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

RICHMOND — After spending the offseason working their way back into form following surgical procedures, cornerbacks Richard Crawford and Tracy Porter received clearance Wednesday to practice when the Redskins open training camp Thursday, Coach Jay Gruden said.

Crawford tore ligaments in his left knee last preseason and missed all of the season, what would have been his second in the NFL. Porter, a free agent signing in the spring, had surgery to repair a torn labrum. While their teammates went through offseason practices, both cornerbacks worked on the side with trainers to further strengthen their surgically-repaired limbs.

Now fully healthy, they will compete for playing time behind starters DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and secondary coach Raheem Morris must identify their top nickel back this preseason and settle on a depth chart at cornerback.

The team re-signed E.J. Biggers, who last season filled in at safety although he is a natural cornerback. Washington also drafted Clemson’s Bashaud Breeland in the fourth round. Biggers took the bulk of the offseason practice snaps at nickel back — covering the opposing slot receiver — with Hall and Amerson covering receivers on the outsides.

Washington signed Porter with plans of using the former Raider and Saint at nickel back. Officials drafted Breeland with the idea of grooming him to eventually take over in that nickel back capacity. The roster also includes second-year pro Chase Minnifield, who spent all of last season on the practice squad, first-year player Peyton Thompson and rookie Courtney Bridget Jr.

Crawford saw some time both on the inside and outside during his rookie season. He made his mark on special teams, however, averaging 19.5 yards per punt return with a long of 64. He is expected to compete for punt return duties this preseason as well.

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

More from The Post:

Reid: Gruden’s job one: Fix RGIII

Hatcher, three others open camp on PUP list

Training camp: Five story lines on defense | offense

Mailbag: On Gruden’s pedigree | Sheinin: On Gruden’s journey

More NFL coverage:  Home page | D.C. Sports Bog | The Early Lead | Fancy Stats

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @lizclarketweet | @JReidPost | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

By  |  05:18 PM ET, 07/23/2014 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  cornerbacks, Injuries, Richard Crawford, Tracy Porter, Training camp

Posted at 04:47 PM ET, 07/23/2014

Hatcher, three others open camp on PUP list


(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND — Defensive end Jason Hatcher will not join his teammates on the practice field when they kick off training camp Thursday morning, Coach Jay Gruden said. Instead, Washington’s highest-profiled free agent acquisition on defense will open camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

Hatcher had arthroscopic knee surgery on June 20th, and at the time was told to expect a four- to six-week recovery time. Thursday’s start to training camp represents the five-week mark. Hatcher has expressed encouragement over the progress he has made in his rehabilitation, but people within the organization maintained earlier this week that he wasn’t a lock to practice right off the bat.

Gruden downplayed concerns over Hatcher’s recovery.

“He’s being monitored closely by Larry [Hess], our trainer, and as soon as they see fit, he’ll be ready to go,” the coach said. According to NFL rules, a member of the training camp PUP list can return to action at any point.

Gruden said defensive lineman Stephen Bowen, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and offensive lineman Maurice Hurt also will open camp on the PUP list.

Bowen continues to strengthen his knee after spending the offseason recovering from microfracture surgery. Hankerson has spent the offseason rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn ACL.

Hurt, according to Gruden, showed up to camp out of shape and must work to improve his physical state before receiving clearance to practice. Hurt — a seventh-round pick in 2011 — opened last training camp on the PUP list after spending the summer recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. The team put him on the regular season PUP list to start the year, and he wound up being moved to injured reserve late in the year after failing to provide a satisfactory body of work during the three-week practice evaluation period. Hurt spent the offseason program as a fourth-string right tackle, but entered the league at guard. He has starter Tyler Polumbus, rookie Morgan Moses and second-year pro Tom Compton ahead of him on the depth chart.

Gruden didn’t reveal any target return dates for any of the players, but he said he believes Hatcher will return to action before the other three.

“I’m going to leave that up to Larry, and their progress will speak for itself,” Gruden said. “We don’t want to rush anybody back from an injury, obviously. So, 100 percent is a good number for us.”

By  |  04:47 PM ET, 07/23/2014 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  Injury report, Jason Hatcher, PUP list, Training camp

Posted at 04:31 PM ET, 07/23/2014

Highlights from Jay Gruden’s training camp press conference


(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

A few highlights from Jay Gruden’s press conference by way of Mike Jones:

Players will be made available to the media following tomorrow morning’s practice.

By  |  04:31 PM ET, 07/23/2014 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

 

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