The Washington Redskins get ready for the Dallas Cowboys

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2010; 12:32 AM

The week leading up to the Dallas game is a flurry of activity in every corner of Redskins Park, from the locker room to the owner's office to the video room. Days start early and end late.

Trying to distance themselves from a disappointing stretch of team history, standing at the start of the Mike Shanahan era, the Redskins prepare for a game they hope will set the tone for the weeks, months and years to come.

Monday: The Camera guy

For Mike Bracken, Dallas week is over before it even starts.

He arrives at Redskins Park around dawn. While the players have a practice later in the day, Bracken, in his seventh year as head of the team's video department, and his staff have already prepped hours of Cowboys' footage for the coaches.

"We're already working on Houston and St. Louis," said Bracken, himself a former player at Lycoming College, a Division III school in Pennsylvania. "We're about two weeks ahead of the coaches."

Bracken's work space is like something stolen from a sci-fi set. Monitors, laptops and computer equipment fill the room. Every NFL game dating back to 2007 is available on the team's servers. There also are tapes of every league game since 2006 and every Redskins' game since 1985.

Bracken and his staff have to marry statistics and details of every play with two video feeds - a sideline camera and one stationed in the end zone. They never rely on the network footage that fans see on highlight shows. The video is then turned over to assistant coaches Sean McVay and Kirk Olivadotti, who input details such as formation and personnel groupings

Coaches can access this footage on the computers in their offices upstairs and sort it in every way imaginable: third-and-long situations, blitz packages or every red-zone play the Cowboys have run under Coach Wade Phillips. With younger, computer-savvy coaches on this year's staff, video is integral to game-planning.

"They're big video watchers. I don't want to say other staffs weren't, but I think these guys really try to push the limits of our computer system," Bracken says. "They're very good at it."

The video crew also staffs each practice session, manning cameras and recording every second. About midway through practice, Bobby Slowik, one of Bracken's assistants and the son of Bob Slowik, the team's secondary coach, races inside and begins editing the footage. About 10 minutes after practice is finished, the video is already available for coaches to review.

Tuesday: The GM

On the ground floor of the Loudoun County government building in Leesburg, Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen waits for the Board of Supervisors meeting to begin when he spots a display case in the lobby that features a Redskins helmet.

"It's autographed," he says. "I wonder who they got."

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