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Monday, February 1: A Pro Bowl Weekend

Posted by Matt Terl on February 1, 2010 – 10:26 am

I used to be a relatively big fan of the Pro Bowl, possibly the only one in the world. It was the last gasp of football for the year, and thus something to be treasured no matter how mediocre it might be. And it usually wasn’t all that mediocre; the rule changes more or less guarantee a high-scoring game, and by the fourth quarter the players have realized that — financially, at least — they’d like to win, so the game turns competitive.

Last night, though, I just couldn’t get into it. I don’t know if it’s the move to before the Super Bowl (which removes the whole “last gasp of football” thing) or what, but after watching some of the early touchdowns, I pretty much tuned out.

(As it turns out, I was apparently alone in this feeling; excellent ESPN PR guy Bill Hofmeier reports via Twitter that ratings were up 39% last night. Go figure.) One person who definitely didn’t tune out, though? London Fletcher.

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Friday, January 29: Another Honor For London Fletcher

Posted by Matt Terl on January 29, 2010 – 9:46 am

ESPN’s Matt Mosley released his All NFC East team yesterday afternoon, and …well, the Redskins didn’t fare all that well. When you’re 4-12, I suppose you shouldn’t expect to have a whole lot of players honored in these things, but seeing it in black and white is pretty stark.

The two guys who did get honored were Andre Carter and London Fletcher, which isn’t really a huge surprise — one of them is going to the Pro Bowl, and I was pushing hard to get both of them there. The most obvious snub is the Redskins’ other Pro Bowler, Brian Orakpo. Here’s Mosley’s reasoning on all three: Read more »

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Brian Orakpo Checks In From The Pro Bowl

Posted by Matt Terl on January 28, 2010 – 11:29 am

Over the years, it seems like something of a standard conversation with an athlete — especially a rookie — at the Pro Bowl has emerged. You ask about the weather, his teammates, the ambience, what he thinks of other NFL players, and if he’s managed to avoid giving out his room number to people who want to charge elaborate meals and drinks to him.

(In the old days — like last year, for example — you’d also ask Hawai’i-specific questions: have you worn a grass skirt? Have you eaten traditional Hawaiian foods like lau lau or poi? Are you hanging out with Colt Brennan? But this year’s Pro Bowl is in Miami, so most of those questions are out.)

Well, Redskins rookie linebacker/defensive end Brian Orakpo called in from Miami and I saw no reason to mess with tradition. I’m hoping to catch up with him a few times as he preps for this weekend’s game; this conversation took place late yesterday, after the first day of Pro Bowl practice.

“First day of practice was good,” Orakpo said. “You know, we started early this morning, ’bout 9:30, with players getting’ acclimated with each other and getting used to the new scheme for the Pro Bowl, so to speak. They just keep it real simple. But it’s been good so far, I’m having a good time.

“Practice was real light for the first day, just helmets, going out there for little walkthrough practice sessions, everybody just sitting in their gaps and getting used to playing with each other.” Read more »

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Thursday, January 21: A Different Feel To The Offseason

Posted by Matt Terl on January 21, 2010 – 11:47 am

It can’t come as a surprise to anyone that there’s a different feeling around Redskins Park this offseason.

There are a lot of reasons for it, some of them obvious (an almost entirely new coaching staff and a new general manager are going to create a slightly different feeling) and some of them less so. I have a suspicion that I’ll be spending a lot of this offseason trying to pinpoint some of these less obvious differences.

One of them became eminently clear on Friday night, at the Pigskin Club‘s 72nd Annual Awards Dinner in D.C.

“The Pigskin Club,” Brig Owens explained, “has a very rich history.”

The former defensive back, named one of the 70 Greatest Redskins on the occasion of the team’s 70th Anniversary, should know — he was a two-term president of the club. (That’s him on the far right of the picture on top of this post.)

“It was originally started to honor those African-American players who weren’t normally honored back in the thirties, forties, fifties and sixties,” he said, “so there’s a rich tradition. And it’s also a community. You’re able to bring players in from around the country regardless of what color they are; it’s all about democracy in sports.”

Friday’s event was, according to the club’s description, “a celebration to acknowledge the accomplishments of our young people and community leaders who serve as role models.” I was there mainly because Brian Orakpo was slated to receive the John W. Posey Award for his rookie season, and I thought it might provide an excuse to ask him a couple of dumb questions.

“Brian Orakpo came in as a rookie and made an impact right away,” Owens said, explaining the meaning of the award. “The Pigskin Club took note of that and said we’ve gotta honor the young man and introduce him to the community here in Washington D.C. I think he’s gonna have a great career here, and the Pigskin Club recognized that right off the bat.”

Orakpo wasn’t able to attend because of a prior commitment, but Owens was there. As was Bobby Mitchell, another of the 70 Greatest Redskins, and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (Mitchell is second from the right in the photo.)

Oh, and new General Manager Bruce Allen. He was there, too. (He’s second from the left.)

It wasn’t the first Pigskin Club event for any of those three.
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Wednesday, December 30: Your London Fletcher Snubhub [UPDATED]

Posted by Matt Terl on December 30, 2009 – 9:45 am

So congratulations again to Brian Orakpo for making the Pro Bowl. It’s a well-deserved honor, and hopefully only the first of a long career. But, seriously, this London Fletcher snub thing is getting ridiculous. Orakpo handled it with class and grace last night — both in conversation and again on a conference call with reporters — but he shouldn’t have had to do that at all.

The good news is that, finally, the national media agrees, and Fletcher’s snubbing isn’t just a dirty little secret anymore. Here, then, is a collection of reactions to the news that London Fletcher once again was left off the Pro Bowl roster.

Clark Judge, CBSsports.com:

London Fletcher was right. He is the Susan Lucci of the NFL. The Washington Redskins linebacker should have been chosen to his first Pro Bowl this season, and I thought he was a dead-bolt cinch. Then I forgot: It’s Fletcher. There’s a better chance of it snowing in Phoenix than Fletcher making the Pro Bowl, and don’t ask me why.

(Judge’s whole article is devoted entirely to Fletcher, and it’s well worth reading.)

Jim Trotter, SI.com:

Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher: It’s time for fans, coaches and players to hang their heads in shame that Fletcher has never appeared in a Pro Bowl. He is as consistent as the sun rising in the East. Every year he leads his team in tackles and ranks among the league leaders in that category. His intensity is matched only by his leadership. You have to wonder if this pro’s pro will ever receive his just recognition.

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The Giants Are Very Aware Of Carter And Orakpo

Posted by Matt Terl on December 18, 2009 – 3:22 pm

When I was in junior high, putting someone’s picture up in your locker meant that you, like, TOTALLY had a crush on them. (I think. It was a long, long time ago.)

I suspect that’s not exactly what’s going on in this screenshot taken from Giants offensive lineman David Diehl’s morning media session yesterday, but if you look at what’s inside the yellow circle there, it’s clear that Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo are very much on Diehl’s mind.

Diehl doesn’t just have pictures up; he’s also TOTALLY talking about these two ALL the time. Okay, he’s actually just asked a question about blocking Orakpo. Here’s his response:

“Obviously you see a rookie that’s made a lot of progress throughout this season. He’s a guy that they’ve drafted TO pass rush, to bring that presence out thtere. And he plays hard, he plays fast, and he comes off that with a lot of steam and is looking to attack the quarterback. So I’m just continuing to watch film on the guy, continuing to see if there’s any tendencies, to see if he shows anything and just most importantly make sure I’m on top of my game.”

You can see it for yourself on the Giants’ website.

Quarterback Eli Manning also discussed the Redskins’ sack tandem during his Thursday media chat: Read more »

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Brian Orakpo: NFC Defensive Player Of The Week

Posted by Matt Terl on December 16, 2009 – 10:55 am

Headline says it all. Redskins LB Brian Orakpo was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Oakland: four sacks, six tackles, three tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. It’s a stat line that’s up there with the best in history, tying the Redskins record for sacks in a game, and Orakpo’s only third rookie to accomplish that feat in more than twenty years.

One new stat from the press release is that the 44 yards Orakpo cost Oakland with his four sacks are the most sack yards accrued by one player in a single game since the statistic started being tracked back in 1994. Which is pretty cool. Read more »

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Brian Orakpo Talks About The Sack Race

Posted by Matt Terl on November 16, 2009 – 1:52 pm

For all that went well for Brian Orakpo yesterday, there were a couple things that could’ve gone a little better. For example: he broke the Redskins rookie sack record, but he did it after the team’s PR staff and a large chunk of the media contingent had already gone down to the locker room. So there was no announcement of the feat — in either the press box OR the stadium.

Which also meant that the press didn’t realize there was anything specific to discuss with the rookie, so he got dressed and left, talking to only a couple of people and avoiding the usual media hordes. Which is, of course, why he didn’t actually get any say in my post from yesterday about the sack competition that’s developing between him and Andre Carter.

I thought leaving in a hurry might have been a deliberate move, actually. Orakpo had been extremely frustrated after the Falcons loss, and it was possible that he just didn’t feel like facing the press even after a win. But, based on his demeanor at his press availability today, that didn’t seem to be the case.

“You just feel so much better,” he said, when asked to describe the atmosphere at Redskins Park today. “Everybody’s just so upbeat, you know, everybody’s real excited. You can use this as momentum to the next game, ’cause it feels so good when you win. At the same time, you don’t wanna feel like, that’s it, we’re done, and then go back and lose four more. We gotta continue to keep progressing as a team, take this game as motivation, and keep moving forward.”

And, fortunately for this imaginary sack race that I’ve been babbling about, he also addressed Andre Carter’s 2009 sack total. Read more »

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Bring A Children's Book To Sunday's Game; Redskins Recommend Green Eggs And Ham. Again.

Posted by Matt Terl on October 17, 2009 – 12:29 pm

At this Sunday’s home game against the Kansas City Chiefs, there will be Redskins Read collection bins set up at every gate into FedExField. If you’re coming to the game, please consider bringing a new children’s book to donate; all books received will be redistributed to needy children throughout the DMV.

Last year at about this time, I went around the locker room asking players about their favorite children’s books. In the process, I learned that Fred Smoot was the only guy on the planet who had fond memories of a book called Sun Up, and virtually everyone else like Green Eggs and Ham.

This year, instead of thinking of something new, I figured I’d ask the same question to some of the guys I had missed last season.

Pretty much nothing had changed.

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Saturday, October 17: Malcolm Kelly Does Not Have A Lot Of School Spirit

Posted by Matt Terl on October 17, 2009 – 8:40 am

It’s Red RIver Rivalry day, when the University of Texas Longhorn face off against the University of Oklahoma Sooners for control of the major water boundary between their respective states. Ordinarily, this would be of no concern to me whatsoever, as I spend college football Saturdays hoping (usually in vain) that the Maryland Terrapins can wrest control of the Potomac River from football powerhouse James Madison University.

But Redskins second-year wide receiver Malcolm Kelly is an Oklahoma guy, and first-round draft pick Brian Orakpo is one of several Texas products on the team, so I figured it would be worth seeing if they had any sort of friendly rivalry going today. For the most part, it wasn’t.

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