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    • DATE: December 3, 2013
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    Redskins Nation is a half-hour show devoted to giving fans unfiltered access to the day's events at Redskins Park. Hosted by Larry Michael, the show features Redskins players, coaches and sit-down interviews with team officials. (Show re-airs at 11:30 p.m/7:30 a.m. daily)

    • DATE: December 3, 2013
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    Redskins Nation is a half-hour show devoted to giving fans unfiltered access to the day's events at Redskins Park. Hosted by Larry Michael, the show features Redskins players, coaches and sit-down interviews with team officials. (Show re-airs at 11:30 p.m/7:30 a.m. daily)

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    Redskins Nation is a half-hour show devoted to giving fans unfiltered access to the day's events at Redskins Park. Hosted by Larry Michael, the show features Redskins players, coaches and sit-down interviews with team officials. (Show re-airs at 11:30 p.m/7:30 a.m. daily)

    • DATE: December 3, 2013
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    Redskins Nation is a half-hour show devoted to giving fans unfiltered access to the day's events at Redskins Park. Hosted by Larry Michael, the show features Redskins players, coaches and sit-down interviews with team officials. (Show re-airs at 11:30 p.m/7:30 a.m. daily)

    • DATE: December 3, 2013
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    Redskins Nation is a half-hour show devoted to giving fans unfiltered access to the day's events at Redskins Park. Hosted by Larry Michael, the show features Redskins players, coaches and sit-down interviews with team officials. (Show re-airs at 11:30 p.m/7:30 a.m. daily)

    • DATE: December 3, 2013
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Seven Members Of Practice Squad Announced, Including Terrence Austin

Posted by Matt Terl on September 5, 2010 – 5:45 pm

Well, I suggested at the end of yesterday’s post about the cuts that it might not be goodbye to all of the cut guys, and that certainly turned out to be the case. The initial seven members of the 2010 Redskins practice squad come from the team’s cut list, including three 2010 draft picks (and one 2008 draft pick).

Practice squad players, for those unfamiliar, practice with the team, attend meetings with the team, and are generally treated like members of the roster. But they are not available to play in games unless they are first signed to the active roster, and they can also be signed to the active rosters of other NFL teams.

This is a way of keeping promising young WR Terrence Austin around and letting him develop for a bit longer — and for those of you (like @HomerMcFanboy) who don’t think that the practice squad is a valuable tool for developing young guys, may I point you for the quadriollionth time to the story of Anthony Armstrong, for one. (Or Devin Aromashodu, for a frustrating second example.)

Anyhow, here’s the full list of guys: Read more »


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Redskins Get Down To The 53-Man Roster; Brandon Banks Makes The Cut

Posted by Matt Terl on September 4, 2010 – 9:04 pm

The biggest name on the list of Redskins cuts wasn’t the biggest surprise: that would be Willie Parker, and it feels like rumors about him not making the team started a day after he arrived. The most recent sign that Parker might be in trouble came last week, when offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan made it clear that the team would not be keeping three running backs who don’t contribute on special teams. Today, it stopped being about rumors and signs and became official, as Parker was cut.

Also cut from the running back group was Ryan Torain, which means that your current running back depth chart reads Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, and rookie Keiland Williams. I don’t know for sure, but I’d have to think that Williams’s good work catching the ball out of the backfield this preseason — 7 catches for 77 yards, with at least one (and maybe two) negated by penalties — helped his cause.

There actually weren’t a lot of tremendous surprises on the cut list, unless you were under the impression that being one of the team’s draft choices made you safe: three members of this year’s draft class (WR Terrence Austin, OL Selvish Capers, OL Erik Cook) were released, and four members of the Redskins 2008 draft class departed as well (LB Robert Henson was waived injured, LB Rob Jackson and OL Chad Rinehart were cut, and CB Justin Tryon was traded to the Colts.)

The full cut list is after the jump, but I want to stop for a second and look at what I think is the most intriguing position group, as the dust begins to settle: wide receiver. The current depth chart features veterans (Santana Moss, Joey Galloway, and Roydell Williams), the promising but unheralded Anthony Armstrong, the heralded but thus far unproven Devin Thomas, and the speedy but small Brandon Banks.

Of those six guys, only one could’ve felt reasonably secure about his roster spot in mid-April, and that’s Moss. Galloway and Williams hadn’t even signed yet, while Armstrong — as has been exhaustively recounted this offseason — has had to scratch and claw for every step on his way to this moment. Thomas’s future has seemed uncertain as well, but there can’t be anyone who would be considered a longer shot than Banks

Undrafted out of Kansas State, undersized at 5-foot-7, 150 pounds, Banks impressed during training camp, electrified when he took a punt back for a touchdown against the Bills, and has alternately dazzled and frustrated ever since, mixing impressive returns with miscues. Still he has one undeniable upside — 4.2 speed — and that seems to have been enough to convince the team to keep him onboard.

So, as Banks prepares to spend his first week on an NFL regular season roster, here’s a quick look back at how he got to this point, as seen by this blog.

1) First Impression: Here’s what I wrote about Banks when he came to the post-draft mini-camp as a try-out guy:

He’s a return specialist from Kansas State who lists as 5-7, 150 pounds. I say “lists as” because … well, for scale purposes, that’s Santana Moss in the hood to the left of Banks in the photo. Moss is a few feet farther away than Banks, so perspective makes him appear shorter than he is, and he’s not a tall guy to begin with. And Banks is still shorter than him in this picture.

What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that this is the shortest guy I’ve seen on a professional football practice field, by a fairly wide margin. Interested to see if he actually gets signed for a full look-see.

Oh, the irony.

2) He Gets Signed For A Full Look-See: Banks’s return seemed like a picture-worth-a-thousand-words thing, so I went videos like this one over more chatter. Also, this was the first time I invoked the comparison to to similarly diminutive K-State guy Darren Sproles.

3) More Darren Sproles Comparisons: Three things stand out from my conversation with Banks at OTAs: first, I asked if he really expected to be able to crack a pro roster given his size, and he said this:

“We’re gonna see. I’m gonna go out there and give it my best shot. I mean, there’s guys who did it before, like Darren Sproles, Wes Welker … I’m just gonna go out there and play my game like I’ve been playing it. It’s the reason why I’m here.”

Second, he shared the advice that Sproles had given him:

“‘We’re always gonna be the underdogs,’ he said, ‘and you know that. He told me to just go out there, keep playing hard, use my speed and use my talent like I know I can.”

And third, this bit of prophetic wisdom from special teams coach Danny Smith, as recounted to me by Banks:

“He just told me to keep working hard,” Banks says, “and hope I can pop one in the preseason.” By pop one, Banks means take a kick or punt back for a touchdown, and the reason Smith is hopeful that Banks can do that is because of his speed. Word in the building is that Banks’s two timed 40-yard dashes here were both under 4.4, by at least a few hundredths of a second.

4) Shanahan Chimes In: The next day, head coach Mike Shanahan was asked to comment on Banks. It’s not quite prophecy, but it’s certainly a statement with an ominous ring:

“I think he’s done a good job. He’s been an excellent returner, obviously not very big but very fast. We ran him in the forty and he broke 4.4 out here on this turf when the rookies ran. And he’s catching the ball extremely well as a wide receiver. So he’s competing right now and we’ll let time take care of itself. When he gets his opportunity in these preseason games, he’ll show us what he can do.”

5) Banks Pops One, Shows What He Can Do: Just under three months later, both those prophecies came true when Banks returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown against the Bills. And just like that, I stop writing about how small he is and start writing about his friendship with Wizards’ first-round draft pick John Wall.

“That’s crazy,” Banks said. “I remember when they did the NBA Draft Lottery, and I called him, like, ‘Man, do you know who got the first pick is the Washington Wizards?’ He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I said, ‘I’m ’bout to be there right with you!’ So we just been excited, been preparing for the upcoming seasons.”

So when Wall decided to come to this week’s game, Banks figured he’d try to work in a tribute for his old friend. “We talked about it all week,” Banks said, still clearly euphoric after the play, “‘I’m gonna do the John Wall if I score,’ and it really happened.”

Banks was also quick to note at the time that he needed to do more to be able to make the team:

“I still got work to do,” Banks said. “I wasn’t perfect tonight — I mean, I made one big play. I wanna make a couple more big plays and show the coaches that I can play on the offensive side of the ball.”

(And, lest you think that Banks is some kind of showboating glory-hound because of the dancing, here’s how he described that “one big play” after the fact: “I just ran. My job was easy. The other ten guys did their job and coach Danny Smith had a great scheme for us, so I just ran.”)

6) Banks Gets A Fan Club: That may not have been enough for Banks, but it was enough for a bunch of Redskins fans, including the Rader brothers at the Welcome Home Luncheon, who donned these homemade shirts:

“Banks’s biggest hope,” I wrote at the time, “is that athletic tape on black T-shirts and marker on white ones are just the harbinger for bigger things to come. ‘This is amazing,’ he said, ‘a dream come true. I signed the shirts, but hopefully I can sign jerseys next year.'”

That hope seems to have come a whole lot closer to reality with today’s news.

The full cut list is after the jump. Read more »


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Speculating On The Numbers From Last Night's Game

Posted by Matt Terl on September 3, 2010 – 2:30 pm

The pregame list of Redskins not expected to participate in last night’s game at Arizona ran to 29 guys (pictured in AP photos throughout this post), and the general assumption was that those 29 guys had secured their roster spots and would be on the opening day roster. After the game, though, head coach Mike Shanahan shot that assumption down pretty directly.

“I didn’t want them to play today because they’ve had enough reps and [I] wanted to get a chance to look at some of those other players,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “But no, just because somebody didn’t dress, it’s not because they’re necessarily on the football team.”

Fair enough. Maybe the 29-man did-not-play list won’t precisely reflect the opening day roster, but I’m still willing to assume that it’s pretty darned close. And that 29-man list is actually a 31-man list, because Trent Williams and Jammal Brown weren’t listed on it but seem like absolute locks to make the opening day roster.

In fact, that 31-man list is actually a 34-man list, because the three specialists — kicker, punter, long snapper — will definitely be on the roster opening day. (Even if there’s a sudden and totally unexpected change in who one of those specialists is, it won’t change those numbers.)

That opening day roster will be 53 guys long, but only 45 of them will be active on any given Sunday. Which means that of the players you saw on the field last night, only eleven (aside from the specialists) are likely to in any way influence an actual regular season game.

This is significant in a couple of ways: Read more »


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A Few Good Post-Cardinals Game Reads

Posted by Matt Terl on September 3, 2010 – 12:18 pm

I’ve made an interesting discovery today: apparently if you spend all of a largely meaningless fourth preseason game tweeting and writing up blog posts, and you depart the game and immediately board an airplane for a four-plus hour overnight flight, and during that flight you lose three hours of your life to time changes, your memories of the game itself quickly become surprisingly vague. So I was pleased, today, to find a few good reads that offered some illumination of events that are already getting a bit hazy for me.

The folks over at Hogs Haven have had a good relationship with Robert Henson for some time now, so last night was both fortunate for them — when Henson was looking like the Redskins’ defensive star of the game — and grim for them, when Henson went down with a knee injury. Despite that nasty turn of events, he did check in over there to review his performance, which is worth a read. An excerpt:

I have to switch subjects for a second and speak my mind about being injured in the 3rd quarter. I do not really know what happened…I just felt a sharp pain, and the training staff decided to pull me just to be safe. I honestly felt like I let my teammates down by not being out there, and I broke down emotionally. This is my job and I want to be the best at it, and I cannot do that from the sidelines. I played beside so many great players tonight and no matter what happens we will be brothers for life!! HTTR!!

Plenty more at the link.

Also: Read more »


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That Is One Heck Of An Inactive List

Posted by Matt Terl on September 2, 2010 – 9:28 pm

That’s a picture of the Redskins starters doing some pregame conditioning. No, the starters don’t usually run sprints pregame, but that’s because the starters usually, you know, PLAY in the game. That doesn’t appear to be the case tonight, as the team has listed 29 guys as “Not Expected To Play”. It consists of nearly every expected starter on offense and defense, with the most notable exceptions being Jammal Brown, Trent Williams, and Albert Haynesworth.

And the most notable guys who are NOT playing — that is, who are presumed to have locked up their roster spots and who are being held back to avoid any risk of injury — are running back Larry Johnson and wide receiver Anthony Armstrong. Armstrong has come one heck of a long way since he showed up here last October, and it’s somewhat ironic that him NOT playing represents his ultimate triumph with regards to making the roster.

Anyhow, here’s the whole list: Read more »


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Larry Johnson And Willie Parker Know What's At Stake Tonight

Posted by Matt Terl on September 2, 2010 – 2:53 pm

It’s going to be tough — if not impossible — for this team to carry Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, and Willie Parker on the roster together. We’ve all known this since training camp. But just because it’s become part of the conventional wisdom of the 2010 preseason doesn’t make it any less strange to hear Kyle Shanahan lay it out as plainly as he did earlier this week.

Kelli Johnson of Comcast SportsNet asked Shanahan the question frankly enough: “Can you really keep three backs, though, that aren’t gonna contribute on special teams?”

And Kyle Shanahan answered with equal frankness: “No,” he said. “That’s always tough. If you have three guys up, one of ‘em’s gotta contribute on special teams.”

If the bluntness was surprising, though, the news wasn’t, even to Johnson and Parker themselves. Read more »


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Ryan Torain & Justin Tryon Return To Arizona

Posted by Matt Terl on September 1, 2010 – 12:09 pm

Some guys get fired up to return to their old stomping grounds, especially if it’s someplace the team doesn’t get to very often. Long snapper Nick Sundberg, for example, is bringing a busload of Pheonix-based friends and family to tomorrow night’s game at Arizona.

Running back Ryan Torain and cornerback Justin Tryon also seemed like likely candidates to be excited. Both played their college ball at Arizona State, and neither has had an opportunity to play in the state of Arizona since leaving school.

The reality, as it so often is, is more prosaic. Read more »


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Selvish Capers To See Some Time At Guard

Posted by Matt Terl on August 31, 2010 – 6:16 pm

The initial report that seventh-round draft pick Selvish Caper would be seeing some time at guard during Thursday’s game was a bit confusing to me — guard seemed like a crowded position — but today’s release of Edwin Williams explained things some. The move offers the rookie a chance to get some work at another position, and versatility is not something the usually hurts a young player’s value.

In fact, one reason that Capers is fairly happy about the move is precisely because it might increase his chances of making the team, although he refuses to call it a “The More You Can Do” thing. “I hope it is,” he says, grinning. “I’m not saying it is, I’m not saying it’s not, but I hope so.”
Read more »


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Malcolm Kelly Goes To Injured Reserve

Posted by Matt Terl on August 31, 2010 – 1:54 pm

The long saga of Malcolm Kelly seems to have come to an end, at least for this year, as Coach Mike Shanahan announced today that the wide receiver is headed for injured reserve. This ends his season and means that he can’t practice with the team, but he can attend meetings and rehabilitate the injury around the facility.

And you might think that this decision — to IR and not to cut — means that Kelly’s going to have a chance to make the roster next year, but Shanahan didn’t sound quite so confident. “A lot has to do with how he works relative to getting healthy,” Shanahan said. “I like the guy as a person. I think he’s got a lot of qualities you look for in a football player. The main thing is can he get out there on the football field eventually and play. If I see the right type of work ethic and him doing the little things — the little things the right way — he’s got a much better opportunity to be with us next year, but I’ll evaluate that as time goes on.”

For now: it’s another lost season for Malcolm Kelly.

After the jump: Malcolm Kelly’s lost 2010 in Redskins Blog headlines. Read more »


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Nick Sundberg And His Mom (And His Back Tattoo) All Know Long Snapping

Posted by Matt Terl on August 30, 2010 – 4:44 pm

The conventional wisdom on Nick Sundberg‘s training camp and preseason is so widely-accepted that even his mom agrees with it. “In the games he’s done really well. He struggled a little bit in camp,” she said.

(I stopped to talk to Stacie Sundberg outside of New Meadowlands Stadium on Friday, largely because I was startled by the unlikely-seeming sight of a woman wearing the first-year long snapper’s Redskins #57 jersey. But this wasn’t unusual for her: Stacie Sundberg has attended every one of Nick’s games, from high school through college and into his brief pro career.)

Being Nick’s mom, though, Stacie Sundberg was able to go a little beyond that conventional wisdom and explain how the ups and downs had all felt to Nick. “He did well up until camp and then I think the reality of it all kinda got to him a little bit,” she said. “But he got himself back together, and his words to me were ‘The games are much easier than practice.'”

Indeed, Sundberg has definitely rebounded from his shaky moments, but he remains in a competition with veteran James Dearth for the position. If schooling and training have any influence on the results (they don’t, really, but work with me), Sundberg will be hard to beat.

His high school coach was Ben Bernard, also of Arizona Elite Longsnapping, and Bernard started working with Sundberg in high school. “Nick never missed a day of practice for regular football,” Stacie Sundberg said, “and then he had to go, work out, run, and snap a minimum of 200 balls a day, and he’s been doing that for nine years.”

While Nick was getting his education, Stacie had to follow along. “Basically,” she said, “I had to learn what a good snap was.” Now she calls Coach Bernard with play-by-plays from Nick’s games that he can’t get to, and watches every one of Nick’s snaps on DVR, taking still pictures of every part of his motion.

And she’s not unhappy that her son isn’t the star quarterback or running back or whatever. “From a mother’s point of view it’s a perfect position,” she said. “They’re only in the game — if it’s a high scoring game — maybe twelve to fifteen times. It’s great to come out and see him play and know that he gets to participate at this level and can have longevity at a position that’s not gonna beat him up too quickly.”

The strangest coincidence about this whole meeting was that Sundberg had actually just mentioned his mother to me a day or so before, when I was asking about his unexpectedly colorful full-back tattoo. Read more »


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