The Carlisle Blitz: Redskins Fans Ready to Bump and Run

By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Personally, I've never quite understood it. I mean, why would someone want to watch football players practice? Even the beloved hometown Washington Redskins? And I'm a guy who likes sports -- just about every year, I go to Florida to watch spring training baseball games.

But that's entirely defensible. You go to big league spring training and you see games. It's true that the games don't count toward anything. But at least you're watching two teams, and they're playing a game, not just shagging flies or taking batting practice.

You hard-core Redskins fans -- you're preparing to take time off from work to sit in the baking, steaming bleachers at a tiny football field -- it's not Florida in late spring, it's central Pennsylvania in late summer -- and watch football players practice. Run pass routes. Do blocking drills. Not get tackled.

Maybe it's the first chance to see the prized rookie. Maybe it's a way to feel as if you're connecting with the team. Or maybe it's just an excuse to play hooky from the muggy Washington August, hop in the car, swing by 7-Eleven, pick up a Big Gulp and some Dunkin' Stix, and head outta town.

If that's the case, then I'm for it.

The Redskins open their season on Sept. 9, against the Chargers in San Diego. But, like the 30 other National Football League teams, they spend their August practicing.

From 1963 to 1994, the Redskins trained at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. It made sense, in a politically incorrect way: Carlisle is where the Carlisle Indian School was founded and where its most famous alum -- Jim Thorpe -- played football. Last year, the Redskins trained at the team's headquarters in Ashburn, Va. And, it should be added, charging fans $20 a head to watch. Which, it should also be added, hundreds of fans coughed up.

This year, Redskins camp -- no charge this year -- is back in Carlisle, which makes sense, because team owner Daniel Snyder has steadfastly refused to bow to pressure and change the name of his team to something less offensive to Native Americans.

The move back to Carlisle will create 10,000 jobs and pump $68 million into the local economy over the month-long training camp. (We just made up those figures, but they're as reliable as any bogus estimations dreamed up by pie-eyed chambers of commerce desperately trying to prove what an asset it is to have a sports team/shopping mall/prison come to their town.)

The drive from Washington to Carlisle is 130 miles, or an easy 2 1/2 hours.

There will be nothing "easy" about this year's practice for the Redskins, however.

New coach Marty Schottenheimer is introducing military-style discipline to practices -- they run from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. nearly every day. In between on-field practice at Dickinson's Biddle Field, players take time to eat, get physical therapy, lift weights and so on. They'll do this almost every day, up until their first of four practice games, on Aug. 12, against the Chiefs in Kansas City. Then, it's back to Carlisle. Repeat process until Aug. 22.

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