- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2011

At first glance, life at Redskins Park on Monday appeared ordinary.

Outside the locker room, players lounged on leather couches and fished lunch out of bags from McDonald’s and Subway as they waited for meetings to begin. Another player sprawled across a couch large enough to seat three men, deep in slumber.

The Redskins were present. That, in itself, was remarkable.

After Sunday’s 28-14 season-opening victory over the New York Giants, linebacker London Fletcher decreed there would be no Victory Monday, the traditional day off after a win. No one argued. So, players reported to Redskins Park to lift weights and review the game film. Veterans believe the gesture underscores this season’s striking change in attitude and work ethic inside the locker room.

“This was the feeling I felt back in training camp,” Fletcher said. “We cleaned out a lot of negativity that’s been around this place, this building, this team for a number of years.”

There were times since Fletcher joined the Redskins in 2007 where he wondered how much longer he could cope with the negativity, where he wondered if he really wanted to be part of the organization.

“It definitely rejuvenates you,” Fletcher said. “You enjoy coming to work. That hasn’t always been the case.”

Of course, Fletcher’s gesture made Mike Shanahan’s job easier. The coach planned to pass up Victory Monday to provide more time to review film. Fletcher suspected as much, but didn’t want the excitement of one win to spin out of control.

Reporting to work on a traditional day off may seem a simple gesture.

But tight end Chris Cooley couldn’t remember the Redskins declining a Victory Monday since he arrived in 2004.

Monday’s tasks weren’t huge. Most players would be at Redskins Park anyway for treatment, workouts and film work (“We really don’t have a day off,” rookie nose tackle Chris Neild said). This provides an opportunity for the team to review film of the win in an unhurried environment and, more than anything, symbolized a different approach.

The change, Cooley believes, goes beyond Fletcher telling Shanahan the team would come to work.

“There’s not 50 guys looking to London Fletcher for leadership,” Cooley said. “There’s a bunch of guys willing to step up, and there’s great camaraderie in this locker room right now.”

Added linebacker Lorenzo Alexander: “I think we would’ve lost that game last year. … The mindset is different now.

“You’ve got to put in work now so you can reap the benefits later from it.”

Passing up Victory Monday was a way of life for defensive end Stephen Bowen in his previous five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. The extra work didn’t cause him to think twice. It’s how winning teams act.

No music blared in the locker room as players drifted in and out wearing socks and sandals. They were more interested in the future than Rex Grossman’s 305 passing yards or the four sacks of Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

Neild, the rookie who recorded two of the sacks, reclined in his chair, wearing a gold necklace and diamond earrings along with the team’s thickest beard.

The backup nose tackle was sore, headed for a stint in the hot and cold tubs.

Life in the NFL, the seventh-round pick believed, didn’t include days off during the season.

“Yesterday’s in the past,” Neild said. “That game’s over. We’ve got to move on.”