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Redskins Work In A Pizza Place For Christmas

Posted by Matt Terl on December 25, 2009 – 3:46 pm

Waleed Zarou, owner of The Don’s Wood-Fired PIzza in Sterling, Va., had one major concern with letting Redskins players act as servers during his second annual Christmas Eve free pizza dinner: “They take too much space,” he said. “You see how tight it is. I was nervous with them being in the kitchen how the other guys were gonna move. It’s a tight space, [and] you got a 700, 800 degree oven going, man.”

The dinner — supposedly two hours of free pizzas for all, although Zarou was still handing them out when I left half an hour past the scheduled end time –is partially about fellowship, a place for people who don’t have anyone else to come on Christmas Eve, and partially about charity, raising money for a mission in Africa. This is the first year that the players have participated — “I thought these guys would help me to grow it,” Zarou said — and Kedric Golston, Derrick Dockery, Lorenzo Alexander, and Renaldo Wynn seemed to really be enjoying themselves.

“We’re very blessed people,” Golston said. “To be in the NFL — regardless of the record — we’re very blessed, and to be able to give back and help … I mean, you never know.”

Golston is friends with Zarou through his father-in-law, and was acting as the de facto manager of the restaurant-working Redskins. “It was hard to get Derrick from the pizza,” Golston said, explaining how the group divided their labors. “I didn’t wanna fight that battle, so I just left him there. And Lorenzo’s more of a calmer dude, so he just said he’ll get the drinks. Renaldo was actually the last guy to show up, so we was actually already operating when he came, and so he was kinda like the guy in the restaurant that went around talked to everyone.”

Watching Golston and Dockery handing out pizza like old pros — asking a firm “Cheese or pepperoni?” like they’d been doing it forever — was entertaining, but not as entertaining as watching them eat seeming one slice for every one they handed out.
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Redskins Distribute (And Discuss) Coats

Posted by Matt Terl on December 15, 2009 – 11:02 am

It’s the holiday season, so I’ll be heading out to a Santa-themed charitable event at FedExField today. But Antwaan Randle El was ahead of that curve: on Friday, his El Foundation partnered with the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation to hold his “Randle El Warms Up Washington’s Youth” event at a local Macy’s, giving away 300 coats to underserved area youth alongside a bunch of his teammates.

December in this area isn’t all holiday cheer; we all know how bitterly cold it can get. So the gift of winter coats is a valuable one, something Randle El understands. “They certainly deserve these coats and need these coats,” he said Friday. “And it’s a good thing. It not only warms their bodies with the coats, it warms their hearts too knowing that somebody is thinking of them.”

But we all know that — even for kids who need them — coats are about more than just warmth. There are all sorts of style and status implications of a new coat, or at least there were back in the day.

“My favorite coat growing up was the Starter coat,” Randle El said. “I never had a Starter coat, but that was the coat I wanted. I would’ve wanted the Chicago Bears Starter coat. I never got one, but that’s the one I would want.”

He wasn’t the only one who had that response.

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Thursday, December 3: Redskins Laugh At The Saints Defense. Sort Of.

Posted by Matt Terl on December 3, 2009 – 11:21 am

Former Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams currently heads up the defense for the 11-0 New Orleans Saints. With the Saints coming to FedExField this weekend, there have been a lot of questions for the current Redskins players who played under Williams, and two things have been remarkably consistent in all their responses: an unwavering respect, and laughter.

It’s a weird kind of laughter, though. Not exactly a nervous chuckle; not a sinister, gloating laugh. It’s similar to the laugh of someone who’s just leaving a particularly draining amusement park ride while they look at the folks waiting in line to get on, but that’s not exactly it either.

Anyhow, as I was transcribing these various quotes, I realized that the laughter really added to the context, so I’m tried my best to include it.

For example, here’s Carlos Rogers, after being asked if he and the defense needed to have their track shoes ready for the Saints’ potent offense. “Jason [Campbell]‘s probably gonna need to have his track shoes on too, because Gregg gonna be …” and then he degenerates into a sinister laugh. Read more »

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Guess Who Got This Week's Special Teams Hit Stick

Posted by Matt Terl on November 19, 2009 – 4:44 pm

Every game the Redskins win, special teams coach Danny Smith awards a “Hit Stick” to the player who delivered the most crushing shot on special teams coverage. The stick — which is an actual carved piece of wood that Smith acquired in Jamaica — then lives with that player until the next time it’s given out, sort of like a smaller-scale, woodier Stanley Cup.

Can you guess who got the Hit Stick this week? Hint — it’s the person who said the following: “We have a Hit Stick every week that everyone’s trying to get. So guys like H.B. [Blades], me, Mike [Sellers], Chris Wilson, are always trying to make that hit. And this week happened to be my number.”

So obviously it’s not Blades, Sellers, or Wilson (although you can read an entertaining account of Wilson’s time last year with the Hit Stick over at the DC Sports Bog). Here’s another hint:


Okay, that was less a “hint” than a “video of the Hit Stick-winning play,” but whatever. Lorenzo Alexander is your Hit Stick winner this week for the hit that nearly sparked a riot at Tuesday’s charity event.

“Danny’s always preaching ‘Same foot, same shoulder, more power,'” Sellers said about the play. “Well, in Lamont Jordan’s case, that didn’t work out too well.” (Sellers claims that he “got tired of” winning the Hit Stick and leaves that stuff to guys like Alexander now.)

Rock Cartwright was also a fan of Alexander’s hit. “I watched it on film here AND I watched at home,” Cartwright said. “That was a MAMMOTH of a hit. It was crazy, because all I heard was a ‘BOOM,’ like somebody shot a gun or something. Next thing you know I see Devin [Thomas] jumping around, and I see Lamont Jordan on the ground. That was a big time hit.”
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Kickoff Coverage Has A Spot For Everyone

Posted by Matt Terl on October 16, 2009 – 4:27 pm

Over at the Washington Times, David Elfin has a solid story today on the impact H.B. Blades and Reed Doughty are having this season on the Redskins special teams, in which Blades says, “People think special teams is a bunch of crazy guys running downfield, but there’s a lot of preparation and film study.”

This is true.

But after ALL that study is done, it all tends to come down to a bunch of crazy guys running downfield. That run downfield, though, is not the unorganized melee that some people believe. Each of those guys starts in a specific, numbered position — from 1 to 5 on each side of the kicker — and each of those positions has a specific responsibility on the play.

And all of the aforementioned crazy guys have a favorite spot in the lineup.
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What Happened On Byron Westbrook's Punt Coverage

Posted by Matt Terl on September 17, 2009 – 4:45 pm

It’s been mentioned more than once that the Redskins had only four offensive plays in the first quarter of Sunday’s game in New Jersey. What hasn’t been discussed as much is what happened at the end of those four plays. It shows up pretty simply in the play-by-play: (5:04) 3-H.Smith punts 38 yards to end zone, Center-67-E.Albright, Touchback.

The person who is most clearly eliminated in that description is CB Byron Westbrook, who seemed to be in position to down the ball when it bounced at the 2-yard line, mistimed his jump, was still resettling from his jump when the ball landed again at about the 2-foot line, and was unable to stop the ball from rolling into the endzone.

It was a bummer of a play for Westbrook, playing in his first game on the active roster after spending last season on the practice squad. The move to the active roster was a big deal for Westbrook. “It was a goal that I set out for myself before the season,” he told me, “and I definitely accomplished it, but it was just one of the many goals that I set for myself, so now I’ve gotta continue making plays on special teams.”

And he did contribute a couple tackles on kick and punt coverage; unfortunately, the more memorable special teams play was the one he didn’t make on that first punt.

“I just mistimed my jump,” Westbrook said simply. “As a punt goes down — and the football is already oddly shaped — you’ve just gotta judge the jump. I didn’t expect the ball to go up that high, and so when I did jump, I just mistimed it. Those plays are gonna be there all year, so next time I’ll make the play, make it happen.”

What interested me was how some of the other special teams aces on the team would respond to this. Would they sympathize with Westbrook? Criticize him? Mock him outright?
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Antonio Dixon Gets To See A Charity Event From The Other Side

Posted by Matt Terl on September 4, 2009 – 5:05 pm

All of the Redskins players who attended Lorenzo Alexander‘s Big Play Back To School Giveaway today had good reasons for being there. Most of them, though, were fairly general: a desire to help kids, for example, or to give back to the community.

For some of the guys, it was a little more specific. Chris Wilson, for example, still remembers what it was like to be a kid and encounter an NFL player.

“I remember going to Lions camp at Saginaw Valley State University as a kid and watching them practice,” he told me. “I remember personally running into Barry Sanders at the mall, not at an event or anything. He was out with his kids and I just happened to be in the same store. I was just kinda following him and peeking around the corner; I think he knew I was following him, but I thought I was bein’ slick.”

(I asked at this point if Sanders had eluded him by running backwards ten yards and breaking into an elaborate spin move, but Wilson was trying to make a reasonably serious point and wisely ignored me.)

“If you can see somebody and touch ’em and really size them up,” he continued, “I think it gives you a better sense of reality. Cause when you see someone on TV all the time, you kinda hold ’em so high. And even though it does take a lot of work to accomplish being in the NFL, once you see them in person, you realize, ‘I could do that,’ because he’s a human being.”

And that’s a lesson that holds particularly true for undrafted rookie defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, because around fifteen years ago — during a part of his difficult childhood that he was spending in Georgia — Dixon was on the other side of one of these “athletes take underprivileged kids shopping” events. Read more »

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On-The-Bubble Redskins Go Shopping With Kids

Posted by Matt Terl on September 4, 2009 – 4:36 pm

There was a long stretch between my interview for this job and the call offering me the job, and during that stretch I was more or less useless for anything else. This wasn’t just the usual job hunt stress, either. As you can imagine, I understood very clearly that I was interviewing for a dream job, and the pressure of waiting to hear the results was correspondingly magnified.

And that was just after an interview. It was not after weeks and weeks of minicamp and training camp and preseason games, with my every move being scrutinized by an enormous pack of cameras and voice recorders, and with each and every shortcoming endlessly discussed on talk radio. If that had been the situation, I’d probably have just curled into a ball and hidden somewhere until it was over one way or the other.

Some of they young Redskins now find themselves in exactly that situation, and instead of going into the fetal position, they decided to go shopping at Target with at-risk low-to-moderate income kids. Read more »

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Special Teams Practice And The New Wedge Rules

Posted by Matt Terl on August 1, 2009 – 4:39 pm

Special teams coach Danny Smith talked to the media for a while after practice today, so a little more news than usual came out of special teams practice: the punt return competition is open, but incumbent Antwaan Randle El would have to be considered the front-runner and likely starter, possibly with spot appearances from DeAngelo Hall and/or Santana Moss. The kicking competition is legitimate, with Smith trying to figure out the most fair way to divvy up the opportunities in preseason. Hunter Smith is the real deal, and also a great holder. (I’ll have a lot more on the holding thing, along with some other special teams stuff, tomorrow.)

But the actual afternoon special teams practice today was mainly about kickoff and punt coverage. And, in keeping with Coach Smith’s philosophy, it was largely drills. (“I’m a big drill guy and a technique guy,” he said afterward, “so we’re just trying to teach them some drills. We’re putting them into game situations through drills and it really helps guys coming from college, especially a lot of the young guys, because a lot of them haven’t done this type of work.”)

But I wondered about the kick return drills, because they didn’t look all that dissimilar from what I watched last year. And that’s not how I thought it was supposed to be. Read more »

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Lorenzo Alexander Holds A Football Camp

Posted by Matt Terl on June 18, 2009 – 3:31 pm

I was out at Lorenzo Alexander‘s ALL PRO SPORTS AND AGILITY football camp last week, and there was a lot to like about the experience.

It was free, first of all — not just for me to cover, but for the kids to attend. And there were a lot of Redskins there as compared to the number of kids; in attendance were Alexander, Kedric Golston, Chris Wilson, Mike Williams, and Derrick Dockery.

“They made it fun,” fifteen year-old camper Lem Howard of Stafford, Virginia, told me. “They interacted with the kids and had a good time.”

So that’s two small good things, and the clear enjoyment the kids got out of being there, that was good as well.

But the best thing for me was watching guys play out of position.

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