RICHMOND — Hanging alongside the fence on the way into the Bon Secours Training Center are pictures of new hope and prior angst for the Washington Redskins. Large photos of offseason acquisitions Chris Culliver and Brandon Scherff flapped a few feet from the faces Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris. Booths were still being inflated, tables propped. The fields were quiet Wednesday afternoon, other than a brief players fitness test. Practice starts Thursday, and the ruckus of training camp will begin.
The third year of training camp in Richmond will be Jay Gruden’s second as the Redskins’ coach. Roster changes, coaching changes and obsession about the quarterback follow him into his second camp. To start it, he had a straight statement about last year’s 4-12 debut.
“Year one wasn’t good enough,” Gruden said. “Our standards are a lot higher than what we showed last year, obviously. We were all disappointed at the finish, and last year’s over. Moving forward, we want to make sure we really focus on having a positive approach with our players, our coaches and making sure we have an impact on this football team in a good way.”
The opening of camp is a jovial time. The Redskins can keep pushing back the dreadful memories of last season as they step toward the Sept. 13 opener against the Miami Dolphins. Gruden feels there is no doubt the team is more talented than last season.
“I feel like we’re a lot better, no question about it,” Gruden said. “We attacked free agency in a positive way. We’ve got more depth on the defensive line. We got some safeties. We got some corners that can play. We did a good job in the draft. We got some young players … We feel good about moving forward.”
There was tangible positive news, not just conjecture. Left tackle Trent Williams (high left ankle sprain), outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (arthroscopic surgery on left knee), cornerback DeAngelo Hall (torn left Achilles tendon), tight end Jordan Reed (bruised left knee) and offensive lineman Morgan Moses (Lisfranc sprain in left foot) have been cleared to participate in camp. Williams, officially listed at 337 pounds, looked like a “gazelle” during the fitness test, according to an overreaching Gruden.
“We’ll monitor them as we go,” Gruden said. “But, we expect good things from all five of those guys.”
It wouldn’t be a Redskins press conference without a query about Griffin. Anonymous and public voices took offseason shots at the Redskins’ quarterback in an ESPN poll of team executives this summer, as his fate remains a much-discussed topic even outside of Washington. Confirmed as the starter months before camp began, Griffin’s status heading into his fourth season remains a bottomless topic.
“There’s always comments about the quarterback position, both good and bad, no matter where you are,” Gruden, a former quarterback, said. “It’s just something you have to deal with as a quarterback, no matter who says them. If you’re an unnamed source, you don’t give a lot of credibility to them because you don’t know who’s saying it. Could be a guy who never played the game, coached the game or been part of the game.”
Kerrigan signed a five-year contract extension Wednesday afternoon. Williams and the Redskins are discussing his contract, which is set to end after this season. Williams would be an unrestricted free agent after this season if a new deal is not reached. Gruden said general manager Scot McCloughan and president Bruce Allen are in talks with Williams.
“He’s going to work hard no matter what the contract situation is,” Gruden said.
The heat comes Thursday — an expected high of 93 degrees and heat index of 100 — with the start of practice. Gruden flipped the schedule from last season, pushing walkthroughs to the morning and practice into the blaze of afternoon. It’s among the changes from last season. He hopes after just four wins last year, more change comes.