- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

RICHMOND — When the Washington Redskins reported for organized team activities in the spring, coach Jay Gruden sensed a heightened enthusiasm around the team following its 9-7 finish and NFC East title.

There were spirited practices, as well as greater focus in team meetings and off-field workouts. As the Redskins begin training camp on Thursday, the expectation is that will continue.

“That’s probably the consensus around here, [the expectations] do feel higher,” Gruden said on Wednesday. “I think we accomplished a lot and we made major improvements last year and we continue to expect our team to make those improvements. We’re excited. We had a great OTA session. Just want to build off what we did in the OTAs moving forward. We always have high expectations for this football team and this is no different here.”

Thunderstorms and high winds damaged the Redskins‘ training camp facility on Tuesday, the worst of which appeared to be a bent field-goal post. Repairs began on Wednesday and the field is expected to be ready on Thursday. With temperatures expected to remain in the 90s, Gruden said that the team’s practices, which are scheduled for the afternoon, could be switched to the morning.

“I might have to cut some periods [short] if it gets too hot, maybe change a practice to the morning, flop our walkthrough and our afternoon practice where our pads are in the morning,” Gruden said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’re going to keep ‘em hydrated, keep a close eye on each individual player.”

One of the biggest differences for the Redskins as they enter training camp is stability at the quarterback position. Kirk Cousins wasn’t named the starter until Aug. 31 after spending most of training camp taking second and third-string reps behind Robert Griffin III and Colt McCoy.

After Cousins’ breakout season, in which he set a franchise record with 4,166 yards, he’ll have the benefit of an entire offseason and training camp entrenched as the starter.

Now that the deadline for the Redskins and Cousins to agree on a long-term deal has past — it was expected that Cousins would play the season under the $19.55 million franchise-tag designation — the focus now can solely be on football.

“We’re getting ready,” Gruden said. “He’s got to get himself ready, his body ready, his mind ready to play a tough NFL season. He’s got a year out of film, people are going to study on him and he’s going to have to study other people and prepare himself no differently and we’re going to coach him no differently.

“He’s a great football player, made great strides last year. We’re all excited about it. But he’s got to continue that progress. The contract will take care of itself. We won’t have any conversations about the contract, about his future contracts, any of that stuff. All we’re going to focus on is this year and him getting better and being the best quarterback he can possibly be. And I know that’s his intent also.”

Notes: The Redskins signed wide receivers Kendal Thompson and T.J. Thorpe on Wednesday to complete the 90-man roster. Thompson, who is 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds, played quarterback at Oklahoma and Utah and switched to wide receiver during his pro day. Thorpe played at North Carolina and Virginia. In his final season with the Cavaliers, the six-foot, 200-pound return specialist also caught 23 receptions for 321 yards and a touchdown.

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