by Brian McNally

RICHMOND – It could have been interpreted as a bad omen to begin the 2014 season. As the Redskins took the field for the start of training camp on Thursday morning, clouds spit heavy rain down upon them.

It was an image that would have fit perfectly during last year’s disastrous 3-13 season campaign. But Redskins players don’t want to think much on that. They have a fresh start under a new head coach and, for now, that’s all that matters.

“Just starting the football season up again,” said offensive tackle Trent Williams, beaming after finishing that first practice. “That smell, that fresh cut grass when you walk out here, man, there’s no feeling like it.”

And so players took to the field for the first day with a renewed sense of optimism. It was a far cry from last December when a frustrated team played out the string behind beleaguered head coach Mike Shanahan, who was fired one day after the season ended.

New head coach Jay Gruden spoke on Wednesday about his fidelity to a schedule. Putting that together was the most stressful part of his summer. And yet, on the first day, heavy showers threatened to undo his handiwork. An 8:35 a.m. practice started a little late with special teams players trickling onto the field to stretch. Their teammates followed a few minutes later and things got underway about 30 minutes late before a crowd estimated at around 1,000 despite the inclement weather.

“When we first walked out and saw the rain we were like ‘Man, please cancel practice,’” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “Then when we saw it wasn’t raining that hard, we were like ‘Okay, let’s go ahead and try it and get this done.’ We had fun. We were itching to get back on the field.”

Quarterback Robert Griffin III liked that his first snaps of camp came under difficult conditions. It was tough for quarterbacks to throw the ball accurately, especially in the first half of practice. Receivers and tight ends didn’t have it any easier. The snap exchange with the centers proved a challenge, too. That gave the defense the advantage – at least for the first day.

Much has been made of Griffin’s chemistry with new wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The two tried a pair of deep passes on Thursday. The first was underthrown and corner David Amerson made a nice play to recover and knock the ball down before Jackson could catch it in the end zone. Later, Griffin made a better pass, but Jackson, who had beaten corner Bryan Sheperd, dropped the ball. Griffin downplayed the misses, saying there’s plenty of time for them to connect.

“Football is fun. That’s what it’s supposed to be about. I think everybody stepped on the field today with excitement knowing that football games that are going to be played against other teams are right around the corner,” Griffin said. “But, we have to get through this grind, or as we like to call it the ‘find’ – through camp. Find out who is going to be the playmakers for us and move on from there. We’re all excited and ready to go and [Friday’s] practice will be better than today’s and that’s how it should be every single day.”

Follow Brian McNally on Twitter for the latest Redskins news.


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