Reporting David Elfin
Reports are circulating again that the Redskins want to hold training camp somewhere other than their Ashburn practice facility, preferably in Richmond.
If Washington coach Mike Shanahan is superstitious, it’s understandable why he would want to get away.
Shanahan was 82-47 and won both his Super Bowls with Denver following his eight summers that the Broncos trained in rural Greeley, Colo. He was 57-39, with one playoff victory, following the six summers that the team worked back at its suburban Denver headquarters.
And of course, Shanahan is an ugly 11-21 after his players have trained at Redskins Park. All told, the Redskins are 66-94 in the 10 seasons following summers in Ashburn (2000, 2003-11). However, their record following their last 10 summers away from Redskins Park in Carlisle, Pa. (1992-94, 2001-02) and Frostburg, Md. (1995-99) wasn’t much better at 70-89-1.
But there’s still an argument for staying put in the friendly confines of home base.
“I’d rather stay at home,” said one longtime Redskin. “It’s such a hassle when you go away. You’re used to having all your stuff at the facility and you know where everything is instead of having to adjust to a new environment. Coaches think you bond into more of family when you get away from home, but I don’t buy that. If you have a family, you’re worried about what’s going at home. Even when we would stay at (the nearby National Conference Center) Landsdowne, I always knew I could get home if I needed to. It’s different when you’re more than an hour away.”
Most of the 119 miles from Ashburn to Richmond is on traffic-clogged I-95. No bucolic trips up I-15 to Carlisle (98 miles) or Frostburg (132 miles). Plus the good folks at Dickinson College in Carlisle had played host to the Redskins for 34 years while their counterparts at Frostburg State, a fellow Division III (no sports scholarships) school, had the routine down by year five before brash new Washington owner Dan Snyder decided to decamp to Redskins Park in 2000 with the plan to charge fans to watch and further line his pockets.
“It’s different in places where they have camp down to a science, but Richmond’s never had an NFL camp,” the longtime Redskin said.
And unlike Carlisle and Frostburg, Richmond is a state capital and a metropolitan area onto itself, one that likely won’t be quite as enthralled about the Redskins’ visit.
While 21st century training camps don’t last six weeks as they did during the Redskins’ glory days in the 1970s and 1980s, most of the difference comes off the front end. Last year, players reported to Ashburn on July 29 and broke camp on August 15.
Which brings up the biggest possible monkey wrench: logistics. The natural training camp site in the Capital of the Confederacy would be the University of Richmond because it has football facilities. However, the Spiders open their season on Sept. 1. That’s two days later than last year when they began their preparations on Aug. 4. The facilities probably aren’t big enough for both teams.
VCU, Richmond’s crosstown rival, is an option since it doesn’t have a football team but does have the proper sports medicine setup although its weight room might not be expansive enough for the massive Redskins.
However, VCU Athletic Director Norwood Teague told The Richmond Times-Dispatch, “That’s a tough time for us because training camp is during the time when all of our athletes come back for fall sports. That makes it a bit problematic, but who knows?”
Using some combination of Richmond, VCU and city-owned facilities seems even more problematic. As does the whole idea of the Redskins leaving Ashburn for Richmond, doesn’t it?
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March.