RICHMOND — The football soared in the air and the big linemen tried time and again to catch the punt and put an end to Monday morning’s practice and training camp itself.
Chris Baker couldn’t do it. The defensive end claimed the JUGS machine put a weird spin on the punts. His teammates chided him. But Ricky Jean Francois got the cheat sheet from teammates Rashad Ross and Bashaud Breeland — two men adept at catching footballs.
Francois finally caught the punt and his teammates chased after him in celebration as coach Jay Gruden whistled camp over.
“There’s a reason 300 pounds is not meant to be back there to do this,” Francois joked. “But to get my team to go home a little early, I’m down for it.”
Within minutes players were headed back to Ashburn to continue their preseason training, Richmond in the rearview mirror for another year. It was Washington’s fourth training camp in Virginia’s capital city.
“I think it was a productive two-and-a-half to three weeks. I think we got a lot of work done,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “We covered a lot of situations and got to see so many different players contribute and get a lot of experience and growth. It was a productive camp and hopefully we can finish strong here with the last couple of practices and get geared up for our second preseason game. It’s been a great start.”
The Redskins would, however, like to forget their preseason opener in Atlanta, a 23-17 loss marred by penalties. And camp got off to an ominous beginning with the season-ending injury to outside linebacker Junior Galette (torn right Achilles tendon). It didn’t help that rookie wide receiver Josh Doctson is still out with an Achilles tendon injury himself.
But they avoided any other serious injuries and are almost intact heading into the second preseason game against the New York Jets on Friday at FedEx Field. On Monday, the Redskins held a brief 30-minute walk through that wasn’t open to the public.
Only volunteers who worked the camp were allowed in the Bon Secours Training Center to watch. Afterward, players signed autographs for the volunteers, signing hats and footballs and cards for well over a half hour. Then the Redskins headed home a little early thanks to their big defensive end who caught a punt for the first time in his life. His teammates will hear about it.
“Oh, you know I’m gonna clown [Baker] now,” Francois said. “I’m gonna get on him. Twitter — any type of social media — that I caught the pass that let us go home. We could have [left] two minutes before, but the man with the hands had to come through.”
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