One early August practice does not a season make. Far from it. But give Mike Shanahan credit.
While Andy Reid, coach of the defending NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles, declined to change Thursday’s schedule so that such high-profile free agents as cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins could practice for the first time with their new teammates, Shanahan flipped Washington’s full practice from the morning to the afternoon so that the Redskins, last in the division the last three years, could work as a full team for the first time since last New Year’s Eve.
The session marked the return to Ashburn of Redskins stalwarts Santana Moss, Rocky McIntosh, Kedric Golston, Reed Doughty, Horatio Blades and Byron Westbrook along with Jammal Brown, Phillip Buchanon and Rex Grossman. Thursday’s practice was also the first for Washington newcomers Stephen Bowen, Chris Chester, Barry Cofield, Tim Hightower, Sav Rocca, Donte Stallworth and Josh Wilson.
That’s close to a third of the players likely to start the season on the 53-man roster who were finally freed to do what they do best. And even that was delayed about half an hour until the announcement came just before 5PM that the collective bargaining agreement had finally been approved, nearly five months after the owners had locked out the players.
For the first time since that awful March day, life in the NFL was truly back to normal. Moss, McIntosh and Brown could re-assume their starting spots, Golston could begin trying to prevent Bowen from taking his and Cofield, Chester, Hightower (with holdover regular Ryan Torain sidelined with a broken hand) and Wilson could get their first indication of how they’ll fit into the lineup.
Of course, all of this should have happened during the spring minicamps and organized team activities which were casualties of the lockout. And it still would have been easier if the process of building chemistry had begun six days earlier with the start of training camp.
But with the preseason opener against the defending AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers a week from tonight, Shanahan made the wise decision to give his revamped roster that extra practice to further the goal of turning the many into one.
When you join the long-hapless Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills as the only teams to finish last three years running, every little extra bit of work might not help that much, but it sure can’t hurt.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.