RICHMOND — It didn’t take long for Barry Cofield to come up with a list of differences when asked to compare training camp under new coach Jay Gruden and Washington’s training camp last year under Mike Shanahan.
“It’s definitely about football and that’s it,” said the nose tackle and one of Washington’s defensive captains. “We’re not in the headlines. I don’t see us on the SportsCenter ticker at the bottom every day.”
Cofield referred to last season’s training camp, which carried an overriding theme of when and if quarterback Robert Griffin III would recover enough from knee reconstruction surgery to achieve his “All In for Week 1” goal, if Shanahan would permit him to do so, and where things stood regarding their relationship.
“It’s a good feeling to just be focused on football, focused on getting better and only fielding questions about players and their activities on the field,” Cofield expounded. “And that’s a good thing. But, with success comes scrutiny. So we had a successful year the year before. There was expectations. So, we want to play to a level where there are expectations and we do cause a buzz, so right now we’re enjoying the being under the radar, being the underdog, but hopefully by the end of the year we are the opening story on SportsCenter.”
Practices have been “a little bit more physical this year,” Cofield also noted. And unlike last year, when Shanahan rarely required players to practice in pads, Gruden plans for the team to practice in pads with frequency.
“It’s just a mind-set thing, a mind-state of the coach, what he prefers,” he said. “So, maybe just putting on the pads everyday will instill a little bit more physicality into the practices. I feel like there’s a lot of competition. You know, even with the returners that we have, we still feel like there’s a lot of competition. [Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett] preached that to us from Day 1. You know, unlike a lot of years, he doesn’t know who’s going to make the team. He definitely doesn’t know who’s going to start, so that breeds competition and that breeds intensity in practice. So, I think guys are flying around and playing very physical.”
Since his hiring, Gruden (a former offensive coordinator) said he would give Haslett freedom to run the defense as he sees fit, and Cofield observes that is indeed the case. And although Gruden’s focus is the offense, Cofield says the coach isn’t biased to that side of the ball, which isn’t always the case when you have an offensive-minded head coach.
“I mean if it’s third-and-2 in the drill and the guy gets tagged at the line of scrimmage, it’s going to be a first down,” Cofield said describing examples of offensive bias. “The ball is going to keep moving and in the move-the-ball drill, the ball is going to end up in the red zone somehow, someway. If there’s an interception of the first play, [an offensive coach is] liable to say ‘Line up again, let’s start again. Good job defense.’ But today we got a pick and the [second units] came up after [cornerback DeAngelo Hall] got his pick and that was a good sight.”
Showing the wisdom and reason that has helped him earn the distinction of being one of the most respected players in the locker room, Cofield issued a word of caution, however.
“I think everyone loves Jay right now. When the bullets start flying and you take that loss, that’s when everybody’s true character comes out,” he said. “It’s all good feelings right now so hopefully we can keep those feelings.”
Washington’s second practice on Day 3 begins at 4:10 p.m. in Richmond. Here’s our camp guide.
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