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Redskins Lead The League In Bill Walsh Coaching Fellowship Participants

Posted by Matt Terl on August 31, 2010 – 11:56 am

NFLLabor.com posted an article yesterday pretty much summarizing the 2010 Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship Program, breaking down the benefits of the program — 25 NFL teams have a coach on staff who graduated from the program, including Keenan McCardell here in Washington, including four head coaches — and explaining a bit of what the program tries to do.

The program, which was named after the man who conceived the idea – late Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh – exposes talented minority college coaches to the methods and philosophies of summer NFL training camps. Walsh introduced the concept in 1987 when he brought a group of minority coaches into his San Francisco 49ers’ training camp. The program has mentored more than 1,500 minority coaches through the years.

The piece has a strong Redskins flavor, from the picture of Chris Samuels to the quote from Chris Samuels (“I have always known that I wanted to coach football once I retired. This is always what I wanted to do, so now I’m just going to the second phase of my life”) to the fact that the Redskins had the most Fellowship participants in the entire league, the only team to have five such folks on staff.

That list:

  • Steve Atwater
  • Terrell Davis
  • Michael Pittman
  • Clarence Vaughn
  • Chris Samuels

Which also reminded me that I had done a quick Q&A with Pittman waaaayyyyy back on day two of training camp, but had somehow never gotten around to using it. So here it is; his comments on running backs catching passes out of the backfield seem especially prescient after watching the first three preseason games. Read more »

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Kedric Golston On Blocking For Kicks

Posted by Matt Terl on August 20, 2010 – 11:17 am

Seems like quite the week for me noticing some new things about the special teams units. First it was Reed Doughty taking over the personal protector spot, now it’s Kedric Golston lining up as part of the protection crew for PATs. When the PAT crew took the field, Golston’s practice jersey — the burgundy that the defense wore throughout this training camp — stood out among the white jerseys of, mostly, guys who make a living blocking rushers, and it was worth asking the hard-working defensive lineman about his special teams side gig.

“It’s something that I take a lot of pride in,” Golston says. “I guess [special teams coach] Danny Smith trusts me at the position.”

That’s a bit of an understatement.
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Anthony Armstrong Refuses To Focus On The Positive

Posted by Matt Terl on August 19, 2010 – 4:42 pm

Every time I talk to Anthony Armstrong, the conversation goes roughly the same way. I point out that he’s having an excellent OTA/mini-camp/training camp, he responds that he’s just working to make the team and doing his best and that what he’s done is less important than what he’s gonna do tomorrow. I try to make him say, “Yeah, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished,” and he talks incessantly about what he HASN’T done.

Well, with training camp ending today, I decided that it was time to have that conversation again. This time, though, I attempted to preempt him by predicting what he was going to say. It didn’t work.

“This is exactly that part where I tell you that just keep working every day,” he said, after I had capped a long, rambling list of his accomplishments this offseason with that prediction. “That’s really been my mantra as of late. You gotta just take all the stuff and put it in the past, you know, build on it. Keenan [McCardell, wide receivers coach] always says, ‘Put something in the bank, every day put something in the bank, and then gameday you get to reap the rewards’.”

I honestly found this frustrating. Read more »

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Keiland Williams Looks Back At His First Training Camp

Posted by Matt Terl on August 19, 2010 – 3:01 pm

Running back Keiland Williams was signed as an undrafted free agent out of LSU after the 2010 NFL Draft. He entered training camp behind three multiple Pro Bowlers and a young guy who had been drafted by Mike Shanahan back in Denver, all of which made him seem like a longshot to make any impact at all. But Williams has had an impressive training camp, and he came out of the first preseason game with two touchdowns, 51 yards rushing on 11 carries, 1 catch for 7 yards, and another long reception negated by a penalty. At worst, he had clearly staked a claim to be this year’s preseason fan-favorite underdog running back. With training camp officially folding tents today, I caught up with Williams to see what he took away from the whole experience.

“Being on teams that I’ve been around,” Williams said, “with college, I feel like I’ve been around some pretty good teams at LSU. But I feel like how we come out and work, and how we prepare when we step on the field … it’s like it’s supposed to be done. Everybody knows their job and, you know, we come out here and we take care of business.”

I’m not sure, but I doubt that’s what an undrafted rookie running back would’ve said coming into last year’s camp. But I was less interested in Williams’s take on camp as a whole than in what he took away from it as an individual. Read more »

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The Meeting That Began The Last Practice Of Training Camp

Posted by Matt Terl on August 19, 2010 – 1:06 pm

This was the scene at the start of today’s practice, the last one of training camp, which featured shorts and shells instead of full pads. It’s not, despite what it may look like, the opening huddle. The team huddled up, broke to a shout of “Team!”, started to disperse … and head coach Mike Shanahan motioned everyone back into this grouping, where he spoke a for a couple of minutes before sending the guys back on their way.

“You know, coach Mike Shanahan is good at gettin’ your mind set,” Chris Wilson explained after the day’s work was done.
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The Offensive Line Gets In Some Post-Practice Reps

Posted by Matt Terl on August 18, 2010 – 6:20 pm

A whole bunch of offensive linemen stayed behind today after practice,doing technique work and some individual drills. The group included all five presumed offensive line starters, as well as Chad Rinehart, Edwin Williams, and coaching intern Chris Samuels.

“We do that after every practice,” Derrick Dockery told me, “not just today. We have to, you know, lead this group. If we don’t do our job up front, we’re gonna have a tough season this year. We have to bounce back from the terrible season we had last year, giving up almost 50 sacks. We have to do better this year.”

So one of the ways they thought they might be able to achieve that was by deciding — “collectively, as a group,” Dockery says — to do extra technique work as often as possible.

“At the end of the day,” Casey Rabach said, “it’s always good to end on a little technique.”

Artis Hicks agreed. “It helps out a lot,” he said. “Any extra you can do definitely pays off in the end, and when you’re out there it’s kinda hard to pay attention to a lot of the fundamentals. Things are moving at 100 miles per hour, and you’ve got big guys in front of you. But when practice is over, you can stay out, take an extra few sets, and really kinda work on your craft a little bit.”

Which is good to hear, especially (as Dockery notes) after some of the performances last season. And, really, I figured that was the whole story — after a spirited practice, the offensive line made a point to get some extra work in. Everyone is happy. Hooray.

Then Hicks decided to explain Edwin Williams’s main role in the technique sessions, and that was clearly something that needed to be mentioned as well. Read more »

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A Unique Piece Of Redskins Memorabilia

Posted by Matt Terl on August 18, 2010 – 5:11 pm

This is Staff Sergeant Reginald Lowndes, of the U.S. Marine Corps. He’s right smack in the middle of a four day leave, which he scheduled deliberately to attend Redskins training camp.

He came to camp with three goals:

First, and simplest, to cheer for his favorite team. SSgt Lowndes was born in New York and lived there for the first thirteen years of his life, but, he says, “never watched football” there. “I moved down to Maryland in eighth grade. I was bored, Redskins were playing the Giants, I took the underdog and I’ve been in love ever since.”

Second, to have a chance to meet Mike Sellers. “I was stationed in Okinawa with his sister,” Lowndes explains.

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Reed Doughty Is The New Personal Protector

Posted by Matt Terl on August 18, 2010 – 11:28 am

I’ll be honest: when new long snapper James Dearth mentioned getting used to “the PP” the other day, I was unfamiliar with the term. (Good rule of thumb: if I break into a quote to explain something, as I did in that case, it means that I probably had no idea what the person was talking about while I was transcribing.) Finding out that it stood for “personal protector” really didn’t help all that much, although it certainly paved the way to understanding.

Now, if Dearth had just said, “the guy who does what Rock Cartwright used to do,” that I would’ve gotten instantly. Cartwright would stand behind (but offset from) the long snapper and call out assignments to the line — and that, essentially, is the PP’s role.

This year, that job is being taken over by the versatile Reed Doughty, who describes the position thusly: “The PP is an important spot on a punt protection where you call the front, you tell the snapper where he’s gonna block, you identify the front if there’s an overload-how many guys are coming on it and then, ultimately, you’re like an extra gunner. So, if they don’t pick you up, you get an opportunity to make plays on the ball.”

Which is pretty much why special teams coach Danny Smith tabbed Doughty for the gig.

Read more »

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Is Devin Thomas Growing On Coach Shanahan?

Posted by Matt Terl on August 17, 2010 – 1:06 pm

Practice today was largely a ragged affair, ragged enough that head coach Mike Shanahan paused it about ninety minutes in to get the guys properly focused and motivated after a series of false starts. Malcolm Kelly didn’t practice again (as promised), nor did Curtis Gatewood (recovering from heat exhaustion) or Mike Furrey (still dealing with a concussion). Albert Haynesworth started practice but wasn’t feeling well and didn’t finish; London Fletcher and Vonnie Holliday were given the day off, having played — Shanahan joked — 25 and 28 years in the league.

I found myself focusing on Devin Thomas, who had another up and down day to match what he’s been doing for most of this camp. If you saw Friday’s game, you get the general idea: a rough play early (the muffed kickoff return), followed by a terrific play just minutes later (the 44-yard touchdown catch). It’s the down part of the performance that has Thomas buried on the depth chart, and the terrific parts that give people hope that he can still be a productive receiver in this league.

But that depth chart position has generated some debate among the people who watch the team: is Thomas a third teamer because he deserves to be, or because Shanahan is trying to motivate him.

It’s pretty clear what Thomas believes.

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Vonnie Holliday Reunites With Part Of His Green Bay Past

Posted by Matt Terl on August 17, 2010 – 8:21 am

Vonnie Holliday was selected 19th overall in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, two picks before Randy Moss and seventeen picks after Ryan Leaf. He spent five seasons in Green Bay before moving on to tenures with the Chiefs, Dolphins, and Broncos, but that was long enough for him to learn some of the storied traditions of Packertown. It’s trite to say that those kind of traditions can stay with a guy for his whole NFL career, but sometimes that’s literally true — as Holliday found out on Sunday.

According to PackersTrainingCamp.com, it’s been a Packers tradition “since the days of Vince Lombardi” for players to ride to the practice field on bicycles belonging to young Packers fans.

“We had to go all the way across the parking lot to our facility,” Holliday explained — a distance of about a third of a mile — “so all the kids would come out and we would jump on their bikes and ride across the parking lot.” The kids then hang on the back of the bike or trot alongside, taking the chance to chat with the player. Some of the Packers players choose a different bike kid each time, but others will make one kid their ride for the entire training camp, which — obviously — can build a relationship.

Most of those relationships don’t stretch on for more than a decade, though, which is why it was so fascinating to see Holliday reunite with Brennan Feldhausen.
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