Washington Redskins hurt by lack of indoor practice facility

The Washington Post's round table of football insiders previews the Redskins' trip to Dallas on Sunday, a game that will likely determine which team finishes last in the NFC East.
By Amy Shipley and Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 16, 2010; 11:15 PM

Despite the free-spending ways of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Redskins players frequently find themselves out in the cold. Or the rain. Or the snow.

Or, as was the case Thursday, scrambling for their cars.

The Redskins are the only cold-weather NFL team that lacks an indoor practice facility or bubble-covered field for use when the weather turns nasty. The occasional inconvenience has been an obvious irritant to the coaching staff; when snow fell Thursday, players were forced to drive themselves to an off-site fitness center because the team couldn't charter buses in time. And it may be a sore spot given the team's recent history of late-season struggles.

Fourteen of the NFL's 32 franchises own and operate indoor practice facilities with regulation fields inside. Seven others have practice bubbles, two occasionally train in their domed stadiums and four have rental agreements with nearby facilities. Only four other franchises have no readily available indoor training options, but all are located in California or Florida.

"Any time you can have a full practice, and go through it full speed and run, it's better than walk-throughs" in a gymnasium, cornerback Carlos Rogers said Thursday. "Walk-throughs [are] more mental and getting things down.

"You can be tough and say, 'It's Redskins weather.' But to have that full practice, I think that's better than anything."

Six times this season, the Redskins have postponed practice or changed venues because of inclement weather. On Wednesday, the team moved practice to its rarely used, hard, artificial turf field at Redskins Park in Ashburn because the team's grass fields were frozen solid. "The choices were limited," Coach Mike Shanahan said.

They were even more limited Thursday when it snowed and the team didn't have enough time to charter buses to a nearby fitness facility. Equipment managers shoved bags of balls and cameras for filming practice into the backs of SUVs.

Earlier this month, rain forced the Redskins to practice on indoor basketball courts. In September and October, players were bused to an empty airport hangar at Dulles International Airport. In August, practice was delayed five hours by rain. Each time the team went indoors, Shanahan described the practices as little more than "jog-throughs."

On other days, the team has trained outside regardless of the temperature, but its cold-weather production in recent years has been dismal. Washington is 5-17 in games in November, December and January since 2008, including its 1-4 mark this season.

League building boom

An indoor training facility "is something, in my opinion, that you need," said Charley Casserly, the Redskins' general manager for 23 years until Snyder fired him in 1999. But "obviously I was on record 20 years ago saying you didn't need one."

Indeed, when Redskins Park opened in Ashburn in 1992 with Casserly at the franchise's helm, he spent little time considering the benefits of an indoor facility. But Casserly, now an NFL pregame analyst for CBS Sports, has altered his viewpoint over the years, citing various changes in circumstance: the Redskins' commitment to holding training camp at the facility; the later end to the NFL season; the possible addition of two more regular season games in the next collective bargaining agreement; and the proliferation of such facilities among the Redskins' competitors.

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