At FedEx Field, It's a Crowd-Pleasing Effort
Sunday, August 6, 2006
Fans were lined up 50 deep at the FedEx Field gates a full two hours before the start of yesterday's scrimmage between the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens. When the turnstiles opened, a flood of people sprinted through the concourse and into lower sections of the stadium, staking out the best seats.
Never mind that the teams would not even begin stretching until noon, or that the entire display was little more than a practice session for the geographical rivals. There was nothing at stake and only the unknowns on both rosters had reason to be motivated, but the players were wearing NFL uniforms and this was football (with no charge for admission), so 47,258 people showed up to watch. The Arizona Cardinals, by contrast, averaged 42,509 fans in the 2005 regular season.
"That crowd blew my mind," wide receiver Brandon Lloyd said. "We didn't get 50,000 people for our regular season games in San Francisco. When we played here last year [with the 49ers], it was the loudest place I've ever been to. I was in the middle of the huddle because I couldn't hear the calls. This place rocks."
The lower bowl of the stadium was packed well before stretching began, concessions sales were brisk, and, at $25 a car to park, the revenue streams weren't bad, either. The crowd was lively even during mundane seven-on-seven drills. They yelled loudly when tight end Chris Cooley pulled in pass after pass from quarterback Mark Brunell, chanting "Coo-ley, Coo-ley" like it was a Monday night game against Dallas. By 1 p.m., the second deck was more than half full as well.
"We were a little rough," Coach Joe Gibbs said of his team's performance, "but the fans were in midseason form."
Missing From Action
Starting cornerback Carlos Rogers, who had missed the two previous days of practice, sat out the scrimmage because of lower-back spasms. The Redskins are off today, and Rogers is expected to be back in training early this week. Wide receiver David Patten, who is recovering from viral meningitis and was released from the hospital Thursday, sat out the scrimmage. He could rejoin practice this week as well, Gibbs said.
Running back Ladell Betts, who has a sore hamstring, was held out of the scrimmage as a precaution. Reserve defensive lineman Nic Clemons was helped off the field with a bruised left thigh in the 11-on-11 drills. Tight end Calen Powell, who missed almost the entire first week of camp, did not participate because of a quadriceps injury.
Hitting It Early
Ravens free agent running back Mike Anderson played with the first-team offense while former Pro Bowl back Jamal Lewis did not participate in any contact drills.
Redskins safety Sean Taylor was in regular season form, exploding into Anderson's chest for a stinging tackle one play before linebacker Marcus Washington intercepted a pass and scored in 11-on-11 drills. Anderson was down for several minutes, suffering a mild concussion, and Redskins running back Clinton Portis, his former teammate in Denver, ran out to check on him. "I think we're okay, according to the doctors," Ravens Coach Brian Billick said of Anderson. . . .
Veteran Kenny Wright took Rogers's spot with the first-team defense. . . . Rookie safety Reed Doughty, a sixth-round pick who had been earning praise, felt the wrath of Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, on the sideline yesterday. "I got after him pretty good, but he responded," Williams said. . . . First-year running back Jesse Lumsden, a native of Canada and CFL star, carried six times for 32 yards and a touchdown and excelled on special teams. "He's one of the young guys we're taking a good hard look at," Gibbs said. . . .
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the Ravens' first-round draft pick, suffered a minor knee sprain.