Redskins faithful turn out for fan appreciation day in Ashburn
By Mihir Zaveri,
Bill Delaney sat on a grassy slope, gazing at the football field in front of him.
“Never been to a training camp where you get up close,” Delaney said.
Delaney, 31, of Westminster, Md., said he is a lifelong Washington Redskins fan. Wearing a team T-shirt, he joined others who flooded Redskins Park in Ashburn on Saturday for the football team’s annual fan appreciation day. The team estimated the crowd at 24,650.
The Redskins marching band and cheerleaders performed in the morning, and shortly before noon, the team itself was out running drills, after which players met with the fans and signed autographs.
Next to Delaney, his 31-year-old wife, Liz, sat on a small black throw blanket pocked with Redskins helmet graphics. Delaney’s 2-year-old son, Colin, sported a Redskins cap. They fit right into the sea of burgundy, white and gold.
The thick woods around Ashburn give way to a clearing with the multiple football fields in the Redskins complex. Throngs of fans wrapped around all sides as footballs whizzed through the hot air. Many others shopped for jerseys and other gear.
Standing in blue jeans and a white athletic shirt, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) attended the event and reminded fans that his wife, Maureen, was once a Washington Redskins cheerleader.
“This is tremendously exciting,” McDonnell said. “I have been a lifelong Redskins fan.”
Much of the excitement centered on 22-year-old quarterback Robert Griffin III, the team’s first-round draft pick this year, who fans hope will be a commanding leader and help revive the team’s fortunes through his speed, mobility and passing accuracy.
But Delaney said it was important to remember winning would be a team effort.
“We gotta keep the line around him,” Delaney said.
Larry Mobley, 65, a fan for 35 years, sat on a shaded folding chair on the perimeter of the well-manicured field. He had driven nearly five hours from Portsmouth, Va., with his wife, Linda, to see Griffin and the rest of the team.
Last year, the team won five games and lost 11. This year, Mobley and others hope Griffin, or RG3 as he’s known, will turn things around.
“Everything I’ve read is that he’s 9-feet-tall and can lift buildings,” Larry Mobley said.
The team announced in June that it is planning to move its summer training camp to Richmond in 2013, after exploring options in the District and Prince George’s County. This summer’s training camp in Ashburn is the last.
Of the move, McDonnell said: “I can’t tell you how excited people in Richmond are about this. . . . To get the Skins for three to four weeks in their back yard is a big deal.”
Delaney said he was glad he could catch the team before it moved farther away from his Westminster home.
“We wanted to make sure we made it out this year,” he said
The team’s first preseason game is Aug. 9 against the Buffalo Bills. The team will open the regular season Sept. 9 against the New Orleans Saints.
Staff writer Mark Maske contributed to this report.