ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — The only visual reminder of the past is etched into the side of the trash cans.
Everywhere else around the Washington Football Team’s practice facility has been scrubbed of the Native American logo that was synonymous with the storied franchise and its three Super Bowl titles. The name is nowhere to be found, gold numbers have replaced the logo on each player’s burgundy helmet, and the team’s first full-contact practice of training camp Tuesday was more evidence of a new beginning.
“It’s just a fresh start,” safety Landon Collins said. “It’s cool. Just a new era, I’d say.”
Almost everything old is gone and what’s there is new at the place formerly known as Redskins Park. Aside from the trash cans that still show the logo that was dropped five weeks ago amid pressure from sponsors, every coach’s T-shirt and signage make it clear this is just “WASHINGTON” right now — a team with a temporary name for at least 2020.
There’s a new coach in Ron Rivera running the show, and his custom-made staff ensuring practice goes his way. Owner Dan Snyder on Monday named Jason Wright the new team president and put him in charge of business, but this is still Rivera’s team and this is his opportunity to put his mark on the organization.
Practice was faster by direction, and though helmets were “optional” for the ramping up period to contact, the first day in full pads had the kind of energy that showed there was someone new in charge.
“We’ve got to make sure that guys are understanding that this is how we do things,” Rivera said. “One of the things we asked players to do is to make sure they understand that, ‘Hey, we want you to do this a specific way.’”
So, when No. 2 pick Chase Young rushed the passer off the edge, he did it with burst. When presumptive starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins took a snap, he did so with a little extra urgency.
There were some surprises, like veteran QB Alex Smith taking part in 7-on-7 drills and looking healthy and like the backup just 21 months after breaking his right tibia and fibula, requiring several surgeries to get that leg right. Geron Christian lined up as the first-team left tackle with fourth-round pick Saahdiq Charles out with a minor injury.
It was football practice during a pandemic, even if it had a different feel than “Redskins training camp” that was held in Richmond, Virginia, the past seven years. Collins flashed a smile when reminded that the numbers on players’ helmets resemble what he and eight players on the roster wore at Alabama, but plenty of teammates are still slipping and saying the old name out of habit.
“My end goal is to end up as a Redskin my whole career and I’m one more year closer to that,” franchise-tagged Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Scherff said earlier this month. “I told ya I wanted to retire as a Redsk— a player of the Washington team — the rest of my career, so just kind of focus on the small details and get better as a player, as a group, as a team and everything will fall in place.”
A lot still has to come into place for a team that went 3-13 in 2019 to precipitate the firing of president Bruce Allen and hiring of Rivera. The team would like to see Haskins take another step forward in the wake of rookie growing pains. He was the 15th overall draft pick last year.
And for Young to be a difference maker in his first NFL season.
But this is also a transitional year for the team that should have a new, permanent name in 2021, when the expectations will also rise.
“We’re just looking forward to the future,” second-year receiver Terry McLaurin said. “Our job is just to try to continue to get better and represent that name whenever it comes out.”
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