- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2017

RICHMOND — Just as it did last year, the start of training camp marks the beginning of what could be Kirk Cousins‘ last year in a Redskins uniform. Yet, this year, it also signifies the beginning of Cousins‘ third year as starting quarterback. For Cousins, there’s uncertainty in some areas and stability in others.

Cousins, who spoke Thursday afternoon following the team’s first walkthrough of camp in Richmond, said that he felt he had a successful season last year, so why should this year be any different?

“I think it was a good season last year — I don’t think it [the contract] played any factor into how I played or how we played,” Cousins said.

That’s the same message coach Jay Gruden had Wednesday.

“He was fine last year,” Gruden said, speaking about Cousins.

Still, Cousins will use training camp to develop his rapport with several new targets, including wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr., a healthy Josh Doctson and potentially free agent acquisition Brian Quick or sixth-round draft pick Robert Davis.

If he’s successful, the Redskins have a chance to keep their high-powered offense of last season humming, even without the departed Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, Cousins‘ top two wide receivers from 2016, and former offensive coordinator Sean McVay.

If that happens, then both Cousins and the Redskins will have more incentive to keep the group intact long-term, though another good season would push Cousins‘ price ever-skyward.

The Redskins haven’t reached a long-term agreement with Cousins in either of the past two offseasons. Both times, the team has offered potential deals that have been below market value, and Cousins has opted for the franchise tag, a fully-guaranteed high salary, but just for one year.

Cousins said that he’s been comfortable playing on one-year deals not only because he trusts that he’ll perform well enough that his value won’t decrease the next year, but that he feels he’s in an environment that can help that happen too.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever bet on myself, I think I’ve bet on the system,” Cousins said.

Cousins also said that he’s no stranger to going into a season wondering where his long-term home as a quarterback will end up being.

“It helps that my whole story has been this, going back to high school and college. I was never given the five star [rating] and the 20 scholarships as a sophomore in high school and just had my whole life planned out for me,” Cousins said. “Every year it was, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen. Hopefully I can play well and get that scholarship’.”

Now, instead of a scholarship, he’s playing to determine what kind of long-term contract he could merit, or how hard the Redskins will try to keep him around.

It’s a significantly less vulnerable position to be in now, though. Cousins knows he’s the starter and that, instead of fighting for his job in training camp, he can focus on the little things he wants to get better at, like using his legs and situational awareness.

In the past, Cousins has felt burned out from fighting every day during camp. At the start of the regular season last year, he realized that he’d been treating every rep in August like it was a primetime game in the regular season.

He’s trying not to do that this time.

“I think it’s just a reminder that this isn’t my Super Bowl, if you will,” Cousins said. “It’s a process getting to Week 1, and that becomes what really matters. In the past, training camp was my Super Bowl. I didn’t know if I was going to be on the team, if I was going to be the backup, the third-string. So, every day in training camp was determining my future in this league. That’s not the case as much.”

Cousins used to schedule his days down to 15-minute increments. He’s relaxed a little since then. He’ll still have a fairly strict schedule in the fall, though, to help him adjust to fatherhood even as he goes through the season. Cousins and his wife Julie are expecting their first child sometime around Week 1. 

Cousins said that Julie will carry a lot of the load during the season, and he’ll pull “double duty” to make up for it during the offseason. Other players have done the same, he said. 

“I notice Philip Rivers has, I think, eight kids,” Cousins said. “If he can do it with eight, I better be able to do it with one, no excuses.” 

 

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