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Redskins Upload: Richmond, Football, Family

Posted Jul 10, 2012

Moving training camp away from Redskins Park in 2013 is widely regarded as a good football decision for a young team. But for some of the seasoned veterans, it means three weeks away from family.

Last month, Redskins general manager Bruce Allen and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced that the team will move training camp two hours south to a yet-to-be determined site in Richmond, Va., beginning in 2013.

In addition to the agreement to host the Redskins’ training camps in Richmond for the next eight years, the team also announced that it would retain its corporate headquarters and year-round training facility at the current location in Ashburn, Va.

“Virginia considers the Redskins our team,” Gov. McDonnell said in a news release.  “The team is based here.  The team trains here.  The players live here.  Virginians root for the Redskins on the field, and off the field the team contributes greatly to the economy and culture of the Commonwealth.”

Allen echoed Gov. McDonnell’s excitement to get a deal finalized on a relationship forged under his father, head coach George Allen.  “We are very pleased to continue our relationship with the Commonwealth of Virginia that my father established 41 years ago,”

Since his arrival in Washington in 2010, head coach Mike Shanahan has expressed a desire to move the annual training camp away from the team’s regular-season training facility in Loudoun County. 

Shanahan said that players and coaches encounter fewer personal distractions away from home, giving them the opportunity to focus on football and bond as a team.

“When you’re a couple hours away as compared to 10 minutes away – when you do have kids and friends – it’s so much easier to bond with your teammates,” he explained during mini-camp.  “When you go there for three weeks, there is no going home.”

Although the Redskins have held training camp in Ashburn since 2003, Shanahan calls the move to Richmond “a win-win situation.”

“A lot of people ask what the difference is, because we spend from seven in the morning to pretty close to 10 at night, at the facility.  When you do have some downtime, you get to spend it in the hotel or spend it in the dormitory.  Players just spend more time together. 

"In my experience over the years—even though it’s only three weeks— it’s really a great time to bond together and for teammates to get to know each other.”

The current three-week camp is a departure from the eight-week schedule used when the Redskins trained in Carlisle, Pa. (1963-1994), or the six weeks in Frostburg, Md. (1995-1999), and Carlisle again (2001-02).

Richmond, Carlisle and Frostburg are all less than three hours from Redskins Park, and Redskins fans have always shown great support for the team on the road.  If the team is happy, the state is happy, and the fans are excited, that accounts for everyone, right?

Not so fast. 

While the younger players like the idea of the move, some veteran players weigh the benefits against being away from their families for three weeks.  Other players didn’t have a strong opinion about the camp’s location, just so long as it’s productive.

"It’s going to be cool,” said quarterback Robert Griffin III, whose grandmother lives in Richmond.  “I guess change is a good thing.  The coaches are trying to move it out there, Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder want it out there and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

He continued:  “It’s not like we have any say in that.  It’s not like I said, ‘Hey, my grandma lives out there.  Let’s move it.’  It’s just something we have to go with.  It’s a good bonding experience, and I’m all for it.”

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall was born in Chesapeake, Va. and played collegiately at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.  During his four seasons in Washington, the team has never trained away from Redskins Park, and he sounded ready for a change.

“It’s going to be a little different,” Hall said.  “I don’t think it’s bad at all, it’s going to feel a lot more like work.  A lot of the guys would go home during their breaks, go see their families, go do this, go do that.

“It’s definitely easier to focus when you’re just off and away.  I don’t know if guys are going to be on the phone all the time, texting all the time or what they are going to be doing, being that they’re not going to be able to see their families and things like that.”

For what it’s worth, Hall wasn’t sure if going away actually translated to camaraderie, but noted that going away can inspire a change in mentality.

“I’ve been a part of going away to training camp a couple times [with other teams], and it’s a lot different,” he said.  “I enjoyed it.  I enjoy packing up, going away, and feeling like I’m going off to boot camp.  And then looking forward to something, which is going home and being back in your normal routine.

“We’re going to keep working.  It’s going to be fun.”

Northern Virginia-native and second-year running back Evan Royster lamented being away from home for three-straight weeks, but also acknowledged the value in a change of scenery.

“I won’t be able to go home on the weekends,” Royster said.  “But other than that, it’s not that big of a deal.  By training camp, everybody’s locked into football.  I don’t think it makes that big of a difference in our mindset anyway.  But, it might be nice to get away, too.”

Tight end Chris Cooley has played his entire eight-year career in Washington, and has never trained anywhere besides Ashburn.  Given how much the game of football has changed during his time in the NFL, Cooley wasn’t fazed by a simple change in locations. 

“We’ve always done training camp here, and training camp has changed a lot, I think, over the progression of football,” he said.  “We’ve gotten away from two-a-days.  It’s just a longer day.  I think it’s just more time spent.”

Prodded further, Cooley admitted that he saw both perspectives, but simply didn’t have a strong personal opinion.

“It could be a different atmosphere.  It will definitely be an environment where you’ll get guys in their four hours off to spend more time with the guys instead of going home and seeing their family.

“But again, it’s a two-and-a half week period of time where we’re all pretty responsible.  We all have to get the work done.  To me it’s 50-50. I know you guys want me to take a side on it, but I just don’t have one.”

Veteran defensive players Lorenzo Alexander and Kedric Golston shared their family-first perspectives via their weekly radio show.  While neither player spoke out against the move, both rejected the notion that family time was a distraction from football.

“I don’t see that hanging out with your families after practice is a distraction,” said Alexander, husband and father of three.  “Obviously your wife knows that during that time you’re not going to be as present in the household, as far as dealing with all of the discipline, and I think that each wife on our team knows that."

Alexander began his career with the Carolina Panthers, who went away to Wofford College for training camp.  Given the two experiences, Alexander didn’t see much difference.

“Everyone wants to say it builds chemistry,” he continued.  “Everybody’s a professional and everybody can create distractions as well, if you stay here or go away.  For those four or five guys that are going to do something, they’re going to find something to do if you’re in the middle of Wisconsin.  So I don’t know if that really is the issue.”

Golston was more receptive to the move, although it was clear he wasn’t thrilled about leaving his two children during that time.

“I kind of ride the fence,” Golston said.  “Being a family man, I know that I’m going to miss my kids during the time.  But on the other hand, I think it’s a good idea.  It’s a change of scenery.”

Golston also noted the value of younger players modeling their preparation after veteran players in a condensed environment.

“Seeing guys like London [Fletcher], Lorenzo, a guy like Chris Chester, and how they go about their day—it’s not just about what they do on the practice field,” Golston said.  “It’s whether they get in there early, hot-tubbing, cold-tubbing, stretching, being real professionals.

“I mean, it’s a trial on them mentally,” he continued, “but they’re putting in the work that they need to do in order to have a successful practice.  That might be contagious.  You never know.”

Everyone will find out in 2013.

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Derrick King has been a familiar face around Redskins Park in recent seasons, and will contribute a weekly column for Redskins.com.  He will also be appearing on Redskins Nation with Larry Michael on a weekly basis.  He brings 15 years of editorial experience to “Redskins Upload.”