The Washington Redskins concluded their first week of offseason practices Thursday, and now have five days off before starting their second round of sessions. Although attendance for the offseason program is voluntary, Washington had 100 percent attendance Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, which first-year coach Jay Gruden sees as a strong positive.
Throughout the early phases of the offseason program — conditioning and strength training early in the month of April, and limited on-field drills in the weeks after that — Washington had near-perfect attendance. (The Redskins had nearly 100-percent participation under Mike Shanahan as well). For Gruden, this week’s all-hands-on-deck approach represented a continuation of the commitment he had observed as his players got to work earlier this spring.
“It’s important because it’s important to the group that everybody is working together,” Gruden said. “For the most part, we’ve had 100 percent [all spring]. We have had a guy miss here or there for a kid’s graduation or a wedding, what have you. But for the most part, I think everybody has been here and everybody has been working hard together and that is how you build unity, really, and accountability. I think when a rookie comes in here and he sees a guy like [wide receiver] Santana Moss working his tail off every day in a non-mandatory session, it’s important. When you’ve got veteran guys leading the way like that, like Santana, [cornerback] DeAngelo Hall, [linebacker Brian] Orakpo, [defensive end] Jason Hatcher, [safety] Ryan Clark, you know these guys are doing a good job.”
Gruden and his assistants have tried to set the tone for competitive, up-tempo practices, and the players have followed suit.
Players routinely moved from session to session, on whatever area of the field required, at a brisk pace, and encouraged each other through drills. They celebrated big plays and at times, good-naturedly jawed with teammates on the other sides of the ball.
“Coach is bringing a lot of energy to the field for us,” quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “We’re practicing at a high pace, going out there and competing every day, but at the same time, we’re also taking care of each other because we’re all on the same team, so it’s been great.”
Gruden said the coaching staff has warned players to find a balance, however.
NFL rules prohibit contact in an attempt to prevent serious injuries. But there still have been times where teams have lost players for the year. Just this week, Dallas Cowboys inside linebacker Sean Lee tore his ACL. Gruden said this week he used that incident as a talking point to remind his players not to overdo it.
“The approach in OTAs has been pretty standardized by the NFL as far as the collective bargaining agreement with no contact. But sometimes when you have 11-on-11 drills, people get tangled up and it’s unfortunate for Sean,” Gruden said. “We brought that up to our team again this morning about staying on your feet, doing the best you can to avoid any kind of drag downs, pull downs, contact. But every now and then you are going to have a collision, unfortunately, because it is football and guys are trying to show that they are doing right, but we are trying our best to police that and keep people up. It is something [where] we are definitely keeping an eye on them and making sure we preach every day about staying up.”
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