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Richmond mayor praises WFT’s new leadership, is hopeful training camp will return

Washington Football Team players stretch during a training camp practice in Richmond this week. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND — After years of acrimony between the city of Richmond and the Washington Football Team, Mayor Levar Stoney said Thursday that the team’s new leadership has repaired a relationship that was once “adversarial” and that he’s hopeful the franchise will hold training camp here in the future.

“With this new regime in charge over the Washington Football Team, I believe there's some great things to come,” Stoney said. “I'm optimistic. Hell, I'm bullish on the fact that Washington will continue to be here in the city of Richmond. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that happens.”

The team is back in Richmond this year for the start of its training camp after spending all of last year’s camp at its practice facility in Ashburn because of the coronavirus pandemic. For seven seasons before the onset of the pandemic, the team spent at least part of camp at Bon Secours Training Center, a $10 million facility built for the team in 2012. In its original contract, the city agreed to pay the team a $500,000 annual subsidy for its appearance.

That deal expired in 2020, and with the arrival of team president Jason Wright and Coach Ron Rivera, who worked to alleviate tensions with the city, the sides agreed to a new one-year contract that compensated Richmond. In addition to scrapping the $500,000 subsidy and any unpaid cash from its previous stay, the team paid Richmond $100,000 to rent the training facility for its week-long stay.

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Through its charitable foundation, Washington also invested $75,000 in Richmond’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities that will go toward the renovation of Hotchkiss Field Community Center.

“A lot of Richmond residents felt like we were being taken advantage of by one of the wealthiest, affluent teams in the whole world,” Stoney said. “Now that that’s different — that Richmond is the recipient of dollars instead of us giving dollars — shows that they value the relationship. …

“With Jason Wright and with Coach Rivera, I've seen a night-and-day change in terms of how they've gone about embracing Richmond.”

Stoney and Wright said there have not been any discussions yet about a contract renewal for training camp in Richmond, but both expressed optimism that those will happen eventually.

“Yeah, certainly we have to think about training camp writ large,” Wright said. “First and foremost, what’s best for Coach and the players and then, as a part of that, how we engage fans in the community. There’s a whole strategy that we need to think about there, and we’ll get to it. It just hasn’t quite cracked the priority list of all the things that are going on.”

At the top of Washington’s to-do list is its ongoing rebranding and development of a new stadium. Wright and his executive leadership team, composed primarily of executives from outside football, have set out to change the team’s culture and create a sports and entertainment company. Wright has said he views the rebrand as “a catalyst” to expand the organization’s business properties and that the team plans to unveil its new name and logo in early 2022.

On Thursday, Wright said in an interview that the team has pared the list of possible names and soon will give fans more details on the behind-the-scenes process.

“I’m not going to tell you what number or which ones are in it,” he said, “but there will be enough of that in what’s shared [on the team website] — and we’ll continue to do that. That way you’ll know — I mean, you can infer — we’re always a few steps ahead of that in the process. If we’ve had time to make content around it, we’ve moved past it. … But yes, it has been narrowed down.”

Samuel among players added to covid-19 list

Washington activated defensive tackle Tim Settle from the non-football illness list after he passed his physical but placed wide receiver Curtis Samuel, defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis and cornerback Chris Miller on the reserve/covid-19 list.

Samuel was on the physically unable to perform list because of a groin injury, which allowed him to participate in team activities and work with a trainer to the side of practice.

Ioannidis, who practiced Wednesday and Thursday, was placed on the team’s covid-19 last season while recovering from a biceps injury.

According to league protocols, if players are unvaccinated and test positive, they have to isolate for at least 10 days, no matter whether they have symptoms. If they’re fully vaccinated and test positive, the players can return to camp with two negative coronavirus tests taken 24 hours apart. And if players are considered “high risk” close contacts to someone who tested positive, they cannot return to the facility for at least five days and must undergo daily testing. It is possible players can return sooner if they are asymptomatic close contacts and later return negative tests.