ASHBURN, Va - The Washington Redskins' training camp is only a few days old, but something feels missing.
Sure, there are still plenty of storylines, with there being question marks up and down the team after their deliberate decision to go young and begin a rebuilding process that was long overdue. The fact that a two-time Super Bowl winning coach is willing to stake his reputation on a fifth-year quarterback with just four NFL starts is certainly a something that will be worth following all season.
But there's still a palpable absence of an element to the team that's seem to be present for the better part of a dozen years. Thinking about it for just a moment, it doesn't take long to figure out what that missing ingredient is: drama.
It has been one of the defining traits for this franchise over the last dozen years, with the team usually finding itself navigating from one dramatic episode to the next. But not this year. Mike Shanahan made sure to wash his hands of the organization's two biggest off field distractions from a year ago once he traded both Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb before the players even began practicing last Friday. Shanahan took not one, but two for the team by making sure neither of last season's dramas would linger into this season.
It's a refreshing course of action for an organization that has desperately needed to focus on strictly football issues. Now we're left to ponder answers to on-field issues, like whether Perry Riley can emerge as a starter at inside linebacker, whether Laron Landry will be able to recover from his achilles injury in time for the season opener or even whether Will Montgomery will be an upgrade at center over the now-departed Casey Rabach. Those issues sound a lot more relevant to winning and losing than talking about who has final say on personnel decisions, conditioning tests or cardiovascular endurance, don't they? Redskins players certainly agree.
"I think it's great for everybody involved," London Fletcher said late last week. "We don't have to answer questions [about drama] on a day to day basis."
It's been a brave new world so far this training camp for the Redskins. Out with the veteran headaches and in with the young model citizens. Entitlement has been replaced by hunger. Big names have been replaced by the unheralded. No headaches. No malcontents. No drama.
"It's good," wide receiver Anthony Armstrong said. "It's good to just know that you can just come here and don't have to have cameras out front asking you about this drama or that drama. We just want to get into the playbook and play football. [We want to] think with a clear mind and just put our all into football instead of having to worry about locker room drama."
To be fair, just because the Redskins look to have rid themselves of distractions, that doesn't exactly mean they are going to the Super Bowl. There are plenty of teams around the league that are drama-free but still stink, and the Redskins could very well wind up being one of those teams in 2011. But for this franchise, given what they've gone through off the field, they'll have to learn how to walk before they learn how to run. Coaches will now be free to coach, and the new core of players will now be free to learn and gel, starting the season off on the right foot.
So now this young Redskins team will move forward with a chance to finally create an organizational identity, something that hasn't existed around these parts in nearly twenty years. Will that happen? Time will tell, but it's logical to think that that process starts when the type of locker room histrionics that engulfed the team a year ago is reduced to silence, as it has this year.
And for this franchise, the silence has been deafening so far.