Redskins attempt a family reunion by reaching out to players of the past

By Mike Wise
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Brian Mitchell has been one of the most candid, outspoken critics of his former team the past decade. In point of fact, the former Pro Bowler represented almost a bridge between prominent names in team history -- Faces of the Disenfranchised Player. It's a group that ranges from the most popular of all time, John Riggins, to owner Daniel Snyder's first draft pick, LaVar Arrington.

Yet months before the Washington Redskins' first game of the 2010 season, even the brutally honest B. Mitch feels major changes are afoot with the team, something beyond acquiring Donovan McNabb or laying down the law with Albert Haynesworth.

"I know Bruce Allen talked to Mike Nelms," Mitchell said of the team's new general manager and the Redskins' former kick returner and defensive back. "When Mike talked to me, he said [Bruce] wanted to know what the problems were with former players, how he could bridge the relationship between the team and its former players."

Then came Mitchell's invitation from Allen in the mail, addressed to Redskins alumni in general, asking Mitchell to be a part of a reunion day at Redskins Park on June 17, a day closed to the public, when current and former players could talk and bond and be a part of events and activities that made them feel part of something larger again.

"He made it clear he wanted to reunite the burgundy-and-gold family, which has been fragmented," Mitchell said. "Hell, I've seen it fragment. They used to reach out to a certain group of guys that told them what they wanted to hear. I can't say that right now. This feels like a sincere attempt to reconnect with their past in a good way."

Did we mention they might go back to the gold pants worn by the late, great George Allen's teams in the 1970s, when his two, young sons took the losses as personally as the players?

Of course, bloodlines aren't everything.

Indeed, Bruce Allen inherited three things when he became general manager of the Redskins in late December, only one of them good: a thin roster, a restless fan base and, yes, an organization with an ultra-proud history, dating from his father's days as coach and further.

While fixing the first two things would require time and evidence in the standings, reconnecting with an organizational strength -- the Redskins' glorious past and the players who partook of it, many of whom want to feel an emotional tug to the team -- became as obvious as it was paramount.

"Our job, as current employees, is to respect the history," Allen said last week in an interview at an Ashburn restaurant. "The reason we have fans is the great performances of the players and coaches and the fans before. We didn't create this magic last year or the year before, or this year. It's everyone who came before us."

Allen put his iPhone back in his pants pocket and continued. "So I do believe we owe more than a debt of gratitude to the players that came before us."

Last weekend for the first time, Mark Rypien's charitable golf tournament, the Mickey Steele Golf Outing, named for his friend who lost his battle with leukemia in 2004, partnered with the Redskins charitable foundation to pull in more than 40 former players.

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