The Washington Redskins announced yesterday that they will allow fans to attend most practices at Redskins Park during the first two weeks of training camp but are expected to hold closed sessions for the remainder of the preseason.
Redskins players will report to camp on July 30 and begin practice the following day, one of the latest starting dates in the NFL.
Except for a day off after the team's first preseason game against the Denver Broncos Aug. 9, the Redskins are scheduled to be on the field every day during the first two weeks of camp. But the team has scheduled both morning and afternoon practices on just three days; on other days the players will be on the field just once.
The relatively light schedule reflects Coach Joe Gibbs's concern about playing in the Aug. 9 Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, which is a week earlier than the rest of the league, as well as his belief that the team has already made significant progress during three minicamps and heavily attended voluntary practices in recent months.
Players will begin practice July 31 for two training sessions, beginning at 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The team will also hold morning and afternoon practices on Aug. 2.
Practices will be open to the public through Aug. 7, which is Fan Appreciation Day.
The team will travel to Canton on Aug. 8, and will open the NFL preseason schedule the following night in a game televised nationally on ABC. The team will return to Redskins Park following the game and hold closed practices until Aug. 11, when a morning and afternoon session take place, and on Aug. 12, when players are scheduled to take the field at 4:30 p.m.
After Aug. 12, most, if not all of the remainder of training camp, will be closed to the public. The team will also hold some night practices away from Redskins Park at high schools in the Ashburn area; those will also be closed.
Gibbs worked his team hard during the last few months in an effort to build chemistry among his players and his staff. The team overhauled one-third of its roster during the off-season, and the goal was to breed familiarity and respect among the new faces.
After taking off a month for vacation, the coaches will again push their players in training camp, eager to see how they respond in the sticky heat of summer while wearing pads and helmets.
"Obviously, up until now we've just been in helmets," Gibbs told reporters Tuesday. "The most important thing is when you get the pads on and start hitting people and get the right precision and actually start blocking and tackling."
The Redskins have yet to finalize all of their plans for Fan Appreciation Day, although the team's cheerleaders and marching band will be present and players will be signing autographs, the team said. All open practice sessions are free to the public.
Gibbs, back in the NFL after an 11-year absence, has been candid in his desire to maintain a level of secrecy among his players and staff. He wants to capitalize on the element of surprise, with opponents wondering how the team will operate given how long Gibbs was away from the game. Thus it is expected that fans and the media will have considerably less access to practices during the second half of August.
"We do have somewhat of an advantage there, and we'd like to keep it ," Gibbs said. "There's going to be some indecision [from opponents] about, 'How much are these guys going to do?' ''
Training camp sessions will generally last between 90 minutes to two hours and some players may sign autographs at the conclusion of each session, but there will be no structured signings, save for Fan Appreciation Day.
Washington will play two home preseason games at FedEx Field -- Aug. 14 against Carolina and Sept. 3 against Atlanta -- and will play at Miami on Aug. 21 and at St. Louis on Aug. 27 before opening the regular season Sept. 12 at FedEx Field against Tampa Bay.