Full pads, live tackling and a little after-the-whistle shoving — training camp truly began Monday for the Redskins.
Coach Jay Gruden’s first padded practice was more intense than most practices since the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. It was Sam Huff football, showing who’s the tougher man.
Live tackling drills — for perhaps the only time during the three-week camp — brought plenty of hoots and hollers from nearby players. Linemen and defensive backs took on running backs in a scaled-down version of the Oklahoma Drill — which hasn’t been seen since Marty Schottenheimer’s 2001 camp opener. Rookie safety Ross Madison’s helmet came clean off during a tackle. When a back eluded the defender, the offense celebrated like they scored a touchdown.
Was Gruden trying to toughen up players and show his edge as a first-year boss? More likely, he just wanted to gauge the team’s tackling — which wasn’t very good last year. There’s no tackling during offseason camps, so Gruden needed to test his defense.
“All around, it was pretty satisfying,” he said. “Physicality upfront is where it needs to be.”
Overall, Gruden’s training camp is typical of camps since the 2011 CBA deal — which limits practice to three hours a day with one hour of walkthroughs. No more “Junction Boys” of Bear Bryant’s 1954 famed camp. Under Gruden, it’s more teaching and conditioning.
It doesn’t really matter. The toughest training camp in recent years was Schottenheimer’s — full pads twice a day, every single day of camp — and the Redskins went on to open the 2001 season 0-5. So much for being ready.
Then there was Jim Zorn’s “Club Med” approach in 2008. Players stood in the shade of “Z-screens” the coach created. The Redskins opened 6-2. The rest of his two-year tenure they went 6-18. Guess they needed more shade.
Joe Gibbs ran tough camps. So did Richie Petitbon and Norv Turner (though camp before Turner’s lame-duck 2000 season was pretty easy, with some players even slipping away from the team hotel to sleep at home). Conversely, camps under Steve Spurrier and Zorn were easy for players.
Mike Shanahan’s four seasons showed the pointlessness of comparing camps. He spent more time teaching than beating up players. Washington went 10-6 in 2012 with the same kind of camp that produced three double-digit-loss seasons.
Good players make good camps. Otherwise, it’s all the same.
Read more from Rick Snider: