With the sun out and the training camp-like heat bearing down on them, the Washington Redskins finished their final day of player-led workouts Thursday at an area high school.
For a team that has much progress to make in their quest to reclaim NFL relevance, they were resolute in their belief that this week's workouts provided tangible benefits during one of the most uncertain periods in the league's history. Although the team was not watched by coaches and couldn't put their practice on film, there was the overarching sense that these workouts were more than just a PR stunt put on by the NFL players, as some have claimed.
However, what's most interesting about these player-led workouts is how they illustrate an under-emphasized sense of camaraderie among these players.
Since Mike Shanahan came on board last season, it was believed that all the Redskins' dramatic episodes would simply fade away and his stern look alone would be enough to scare off would-be instigators. But as we know, that wasn't the case in 2010, as the team dealt with not one, but two major dramas that had the entire league talking. Looking back now, those dramas overshadowed what was, for the most part, a quality locker room.
But that solidarity took center stage this week, as veteran leaders orchestrated voluntary practices for the second time this offseason. It's that quality leadership and camaraderie that makes life easier on the younger players, even during uncertain times.
"To be honest with you, I'm not too worried [about the lockout]," second year wide-out Terrence Austin said. "We [have] good leadership here. They're putting us together to get back out here and do these workouts."
For veteran London Fletcher, who essentially acted as head coach during these workouts, this past week was about regaining chemistry with the returning players, but also laying the groundwork for the 12-player rookie class.
"I think we made progress" the defensive captain said. "Granted, we don't have the coaches out here coaching all the techniques and the fundamentals to a tee. But the basic stuff we can get accomplished out here. We really gave some rookies some stuff so they can have a foundation. The next [practice] we'll give them a little bit more, take them to the next level."
Having that foundation and chemistry is especially important on the offensive side of the ball, where potential starting quarterback John Beck stressed the importance of being with his teammates as opposed to individual workouts.
"When we're all in different states, working out with different players, we're keeping our skills up but we're not being together talking that language with each other," Beck said. "We all have to be a unit on offense. The quarterback, the line, the backs, the wideouts, we all have to be working as one. And if we're not, we're not going to be our best."
While these workouts alone won't be the reason this team competes for a playoff berth in 2011, it's quite apparent that this team possesses a great deal of leadership, solidarity and togetherness despite the drama that has surrounded them.
So what's next for this group? Time will tell, but all they can do at the moment is sit back with the rest of the NFL players and fans to figure out where this labor situation is headed. With the legitimate threat of the NFL season being in jeopardy, life could get interesting in the next few months.
"I don't think I'm nervous [about the lockout]" center Casey Rabach said. "Just because it's something that's really out of our control. As a player there's nothing we can really do. The only thing we can do is prepare the best we can for when this thing ends."