As they geared up for Thursday’s start to training camp practices, Washington Redskins players expressed excitement, but also said they feel expectations – both outward and inward – to build on last year’s success.
“[Expectations] are extremely high,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said Wednesday evening after he and his teammates completed their conditioning tests. “They may be high from the outside, from a lot of people, but inside our building, they’re extremely high. We have huge expectations. We’ve worked hard all offseason and prepared all offseason like we’re a team that is at the bottom of the barrel.”
Last season, in their third under Coach Mike Shanahan, the Redskins rebounded from a 3-6 start to finish 10-6 and win the NFC East. It marked Washington’s first playoff campaign in five seasons, and the team’s first division title since 1999.
After winning just 11 games combined in 2010 and 2011, the Redskins hope last season is the start of a winning tradition.
It’s one thing to have a good season and make a playoff appearance, but the mark of a winning franchise is to compete for division titles on a regular basis, and to do more than just reach the playoffs, players said.
Linebacker London Fletcher was asked what it takes for a team to morph from occasional playoff hopeful to perennial contender.
“It’s a combination of things,” he said. “Having good football players, the right coaching staff, players buying into the system, health, guys being healthy, and having the mentality that, ‘Every day I’m going to come in and work, and not worry about what happened yesterday,’ consistently having the same core group of guys on your team year in and year out, that’s probably the difference.”
Fletcher believes the Redskins finally are approaching that point.
“I think the organization – Coach Shanahan, Bruce Allen – they’ve done a great job of adding to the talent of this team. I think the roster, when you look at the young talent we have, the veterans, it’s a great group of guys. The locker room, we like our locker room. We like coming to work, and guys really have a mentality of wanting to come in and get better each and every day. When you have that type of character and talent, that mix of young and old, you can accomplish some good things.”
Left tackle Trent Williams agreed.
“It’s optimism,” he said, describing the overall mood of the team as players reported for training camp. “Obviously, we’ve got a couple key guys coming off of injury, and you never know how that could turn out, but last year was a great stepping stone. Obviously, we’ve got to keep working hard like we did every day last year; keep competing in practice and everything will take care of itself.”
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