- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The locker room at Redskins Park emptied quickly Tuesday afternoon, and fullback Darrel Young was already thinking of home.

Everyone spends the bye week differently, Young says, but for him, it’s all about family. The league-mandated time off is an opportunity to go home to Amityville, New York (“The horror!” he says) and sink into his favorite couch. It’s a chance to let his parents, David Sr. and Geneva, spoil him with home-cooked meals, a chance to watch the weekend’s games without playing in any of them.

“Just relaxing,” Young said with a smile. “I don’t want to do [squat].”

With the first nine weeks of the season behind them, Young and the Redskins participated in a light conditioning session Tuesday morning and then scattered to begin a five-day break. Players have the option of staying in town and lifting weights at the team’s facility each morning. But for most, the bye week is an opportunity to leave Ashburn and recharge, both mentally and physically.

“You’ve got to get away from the game a little bit,” Young said. “Think about why you do what you do, why you love what you do. You kind of forget in the season because everything’s so repetitive every day. So from that standpoint, just go out there and remember what you’re here for and remember those goals you set before the season to try to accomplish some of them.”

Under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, players must receive four consecutive days off during a bye week. They are allowed to receive treatment or use the team’s facilities but not practice or otherwise receive coordinated instruction from the coaching staff.

During his tenure in Washington, Mike Shanahan usually asked players to run or lift weights on an honor system during the bye week. “God is watching,” he told them in 2011.

First-year Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he did not offer a specific message to his players before they departed but trusts them to adequately prepare for the second half of the season.

“Obviously we’d like for them to get some lifting in and maybe some running in,” Gruden said. “But it’s also good for them to get away, see their families, see their loved ones, enjoy themselves. Understand that after the 4-5 days, they’ve got to come back ready to work and compete through the second half of the year.”

Gruden plans to spend most mornings this week at Redskins Park. “Got nothing else to do,” he said. He’ll watch film of Washington’s next two opponents — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers — and start brainstorming game plans for each.

However, Gruden said he also hopes to take a little break of his own, maybe a trip to Florida to see his grandson.

“I do want to get away,” Gruden said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.”

Quarterback Robert Griffin III said he also planned to get away from football and spend some time with his wife during the bye week. Roy Helu surprised his wife with a planned trip to her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, where they’ll celebrate her birthday and spend time with her side of the family.

Long snapper Nick Sundberg usually stays home during the bye week to lift weights and stay sharp. But this year, he decided to take his girlfriend to New York for a few days, with tickets to see “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway.

“We’ve spent so much time here. This is a really late bye week,” Sundberg said. “I just want to get away a little bit and not necessarily clear my head, but just kind of get out of here and refresh.”

Like every player, Sundberg must walk the fine line between rest and too much rest. The bye week provides a much-needed time for players to heal, especially this late in the season, but failing to run or work out for five straight days can have an equally negative effect.

Helu learned as much last season, when he abstained from any physical activity during the bye and tried to run the day before practice resumed. “It was like my body forgot how to sprint,” he said. “It’s just one of those muscle memory things.”

So this year, Helu said he’ll make time during his trip to Nebraska to run sprints on a few days and lift weights once or twice. Most players follow a similar blueprint of daily but relatively light workouts. Others, however, are focused only on recovery.

“People don’t understand how much our body goes through as players,” tight end Niles Paul said. “I play in the trenches, man. My body’s sore. This bye week couldn’t come at a more perfect time because I’m sore, I’m hurting, I’m beat up. I kind of need a couple days off to relax and get my body right.”

The Redskins will return to practice Monday and begin preparing for their next game against Tampa Bay. They’ll fall back into the weekly grind of the NFL season and try to dig themselves out of another 3-6 hole, attempting to salvage a season that looks increasingly unsalvageable.

In the meantime, however, the focus is on family, food and, for one happy fullback, a couch in southern New York.

“Just sit on the couch, talk with my dad about football. How we stink right now,” Young said with a laugh. “So it’s a good time.”

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