As the longest work stoppage in NFL history reached its 70th day, 41 Washington Redskins players gathered for a second round of informal workouts Tuesday, trying to remain united and familiar with the team’s playbook.
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, paid the players a visit, watching the majority of the 90-minute session at a northern Virginia high school. Afterwards, he updated the players on the state of the league’s labor dispute and the NFLPA’s efforts. He also fielded questions from the players.
Smith declined interview requests, but the players described his talk as encouraging.
Just as encouraging — if not more encouraging — for the team was the large turnout. Roughly 20 players gathered for the first such workout on April 19, and the following day 30 players came out. The number increased by 11 this time, and more players are expected Wednesday when the Redskins gather again.
Among the players in attendance on Tuesday were veterans such as linebackers London Fletcher and Lorenzo Alexander, cornerback DeAngelo Hall, quarterbacks John Beck and Rex Grossman, center Casey Rabach, tight end Chris Cooley and 10 of the 12 rookies the team drafted in April.
First-round draft pick Ryan Kerrigan, a linebacker out of Purdue, was there, as were third-round receiver Leonard Hankerson (Miami), fourth-round running back Roy Helu (Nebraska), fifth-rounders DeJon Gomes (safety, Nebraska) and Niles Paul (wide receiver, Nebraska), sixth-round pick Evan Royster (running back, Penn State) and seventh-rounders Brandyn Thompson (cornerback, Boise State), Maurice Hurt (guard, Florida), Markus White (linebacker, Florida State) and Chris Neild (nose tackle, West Virginia).
Only defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins (Clemson), a second-round pick, and wide receiver Aldrick Robinson (Southern Methodist), a sixth-rounder, weren’t in attendance.
“It’s great, guys showing up, ready to get better,” Alexander said. “This way, when we’re ready to get back to playing, in a couple of months, we’re ahead of the game, we’re not learning too much. Also was good to have these rookies come up so they can see what we do, get acclimated to the NFL, the plays and really just hearing them. This way, when we get out there, they’re not lost in water and behind everybody else.”
For many of the rookies, it was the first exposure to the Redskins’ offensive and defensive formations. Kerrigan was given a copy of the playbook when he visited Redskins Park the day after he was drafted. But then the lockout was reinstated and the rest of the rookies were left to learn what they could by watching highlights from last season. Hankerson got together with Beck for two days earlier this month, but otherwise, Tuesday marked the first real contact any of the rookies had with their new teammates.
“It’s rough as a rookie, getting associated with everybody, but it’s what you have to do,” said White, who played defensive end at Florida State but is moving to outside linebacker. “I like the leadership that we had out here and it really helped being able to get out here with this practice. I’ve been looking over general coverages, but I had to cram my mind a bit out there. But, you’ve got to start somewhere.”
Said Kerrigan: “It was a lot better being able to run through the plays as opposed to just reading them and mentally trying to store them. Physically going through them was helpful today.”
Fletcher ushered the group of rookie players onto the field and briefly addressed them before all the players divided for position drills. The middle linebacker served as defensive coordinator, walking the unit through formations and explaining concepts. Alexander worked closely with Kerrigan and White, who are playing the same position he did.
“This is the situation,” said Fletcher, who organized the workouts. “Nobody’s happy. From a player’s standpoint, we want to play football, and they’re not allowing us to play. That’s why in order for us to play, we’ve got to come up with our own practices. We’re just dealing with the situation as it is right now.”
Golston, the only veteran defensive lineman in attendance, worked one-on-one with Neild.
Fullback Mike Sellers directed the running backs through positional drills. Along with the rookies, they included veterans Ryan Torain, Keiland Williams and fullback Darrel Young.
Anthony Armstrong served as player/coach for the receiving corps, and Rabach led the offensive linemen. Grossman and Beck alternated snaps once the players got back together for 7-on-7 drills.
“There’s nothing, really, we can really do, whether you’re a running back, linebacker or whatever, just prepare as you can for when the lockout is lifted, we can start playing ball again,” said Williams, who last season served as third-down back, but hopes to challenge for the starting job. “Definitely if we were in OTAs, it would be better because we’d be out as a whole unit and with coaches and getting this done. But we work with what we can right now.”