Training camp is important for team bonding before a grueling 17-week regular season schedule. A great training camp also needs a great facility and the extra boost from passionate fans.
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden and President and general manager Bruce Allen understand this, and on Friday, the two toured the Bon Secours Washington Redskins new Training Center in Richmond, Va.
It was the first time Gruden has been in Richmond, and said that with the first fundamental building block during training camp -- a top-notch facility -- in place, his team can have a great three-week session.
“We have a weight room that they can get stronger. We want practice fields where they can go out and practice with pads poppin’ and footballs flyin’. We have all that here. It’s a great first-class facility and we’re happy to be here and we appreciate the hospitality and we’re going to have great things in front of us.”
Away from the everyday distractions back home, Allen said that the strict focus on football will hopefully allow the team to carry momentum into the 2014 season.
“It is wonderful to be back here,” Allen said. “This was a great experience for our football team last year and in many ways, we learned what we can do better for the future. And what I’m talking about is the football team. We’re going to take that momentum that we build out of here this year for our franchise and look forward to it.”
A state-of-the-art facility that opened its doors in 2013 and hosted the Redskins last season, the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center features two fields, a full-size weight room and 92 lockers for the players.
With more than 165,000 total fans in attendance last year and two practice fields at their disposal, the Richmond facility is one of only a few that can house two NFL teams with expanded rosters at once.
“Being back in this beautiful facility and thinking of the dreams when we were creating this idea along with the governor’s office, it was for what’s going to happen this year,” Allen said. “Now the New England Patriots are going to come to the city of Richmond, and for this kind of exposure for the city, this type of exposure for the community is going to be wonderful.”
While the fans will enjoy the treat of watching two franchises prepare themselves for the regular season, Gruden knows the impact of having the Patriots at the facility on his team.
During his time as offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals, they hosted the Atlanta Falcons during training camp and said having a different set of players helps greatly with roster decisions.
“It’s a great opportunity to see your players compete against other players in a controlled practice setting,” Gruden explained. “To see how you compete against their players, I think it’s a great opportunity to see what you have in front of you.
“Also, you get more reps for guys that are maybe second or third-team that can go against other second and third teams. We’ll have two fields going and we’ll have a lot of reps and film for these guys to really get a chance to perform. ... On game day in the preseason, you have four quarters of football, and your starters get some and some guys may not get as many reps as you would like to give them, so this helps us make decisions on players that we wouldn’t have normally seen in a preseason game.”
While Gruden has yet to experience training camp with the Redskins or the passionate fan base that Richmond has to offer, he does know that more than 10,000 fans attended practices daily last season, and believes their support will have a positive impact on the team.
“Ten thousand fans on a normal day is fantastic,” Gruden said. “I know they are a very supportive group of fans and hopefully we can get even more this year. It’s good for them to see how hard they work every day and how important it is to work hard.”
After each practice last season, the players joined children for a helmet walk off the field. Allen wants that tradition to continue this year and said that it was his favorite moments from the inaugural camp in Richmond.
“My favorite part of training camp last year was the helmet walk after every practice where our players interacted with the young people of this community in a way that you can only do when you have a great player and an impressionable young person walking off the field together. We hope to continue that and change many more lives.”