“Of course you’re worried,” veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander recalled in recent days. “You don’t want your team to kind of fall too far behind. I knew we still were in it. But at that time, just the morale of the team was really low. You could kind of see it falling apart a little bit.”
A little more than a month later, things are so different. The Redskins returned from their bye to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in succession. Entering Sunday’s home game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Redskins are only a game out of first place in the NFC East and one game back in the chase for the second of two wild-card playoff spots in the NFC. Their once-broken season has been, mostly, reassembled.
But how? Part of the Redskins’ turnaround can be attributed to playing familiar divisional opponents in a less-than-overwhelming year for the NFC East. But part of it, players say, is due to the team’s players getting away from football for close to a week just when the season had reached its low point, and returning to work at Redskins Park recharged mentally and healed physically.
“I think it came at the perfect time,” rookie tailback Alfred Morris said. “We were able to refocus, just regenerate a little bit, get our feet back under us.”
Before the Redskins could get away for their bye, Shanahan first had to deal with the stir he created with his comments following the Carolina loss. Shanahan spent the following two days delivering the message that he wasn’t giving up on the season, first publicly in his news conference on the Monday after the game and then to the players during a meeting on Tuesday before coaches and players parted ways for the bye.
“Initially I was like, ‘Wow, he said that?’ I think that’s a little out of character for him to say something like that, because it seemed like he was giving up,” Alexander said. “But the more I thought about it, I think he was just challenging guys to step up and play. You need to rise your game up and if you don’t, we can’t have individuals that are going to kind of run away when things are bad. We can’t have those types of individuals on our team.”
There was some talk among Redskins’ players about Shanahan’s comments, Alexander said, adding that he didn’t have any such conversations. But after Shanahan addressed the team, Alexander said, the matter was resolved.