'It's just pure football': Redskins find Shanahan's practices gimmick-free, focused on plays
ASHBURN, Va. – The music is gone. So are the Z-shades. As well as the crazy sight of huge equipment pads being thrown at quarterbacks.
For the purist, there's something refreshing about watching a Washington Redskins practice under new coach Mike Shanahan. It's just football. No gimmicks. No fluff. Not even very many drills. Just lots and lots of plays.
"A lot of the extra (stuff) is out of the way," receiver Devin Thomas said. "It's just pure football, back to the basics and do what we got to do."
And, after going 12-20 over two seasons under the quirky Jim Zorn, this might be just want the Redskins needed.
"We need focus," Thomas said. "We don't need all that extra."
Three days into training camp, the spectators flocking to Redskins Park are seeing workouts that neither looks nor and sounds the same. It's less like Chuck E. Cheese, more like C-SPAN. Zorn brought in Z-shades to give players a break from the sun, but the last eye-rolling straw might have come when he installed huge speakers to the field to play music during in-season workouts.
"It actually was annoying sometimes," defensive lineman Kedric Golston said.
Golston said Shanahan wants a practice with no distractions.
"He just wants football, football, football while we're in this building," Golston said. "He likes to have fun with the best of them, but while we're on this field he just wants it to be football."
Shanahan puts the players through a long morning practice, lasting up to 2½ hours. The players wear shoulder pads and shorts, which Shanahan considers to have the same effect as full pads — especially because players are told to hit without tackling. Much of the time is spent running 11-on-11 plays at a high tempo.
"I've been very impressed by the way we practice. I couldn't ask for anything more but for us to just go out there and run a ton of plays," tight end Chris Cooley said Saturday. "It's unbelievable how much of our offense we've installed being here in two days. We probably ran 100 plays out there today. There's something that can't make up for actually running the plays and seeing them work against the defense.
"I know that a lot of teams work on individual drills and tackling drills and all kinds of things, but we're pros and we should be at the point where we can just run plays, and I think this is the best way for us to mesh as a team."
Shanahan did the standard 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 drills during the non-contact spring practices, but he said he's not using them now because he has found they often lead to injuries.
Concern about injuries is also the reason Shanahan has only one full practice per day. The afternoon session is a walkthrough, more of a mental exercise in which the players get a look at schemes used by other teams.
Shanahan said he would "lose a bunch of players" if he had full two-a-days, something that might have been OK when the training camp rosters had 90-plus players. Now teams are limited to 80.
"I don't think I have to have a second practice to just kill them every day," Shanahan said. "To schedule two practices, in my opinion, and go at the speed we go, all I would be doing is tearing guys down."
Note: WR Malcolm Kelly was held out of practice with a slight hamstring pull. He hurt the hamstring while working out with QB Donovan McNabb in Arizona, and it got worse after two days of training camp. Kelly has been working with the second-team unit but hopes to compete for a starting job. "Any time you miss reps, you're giving somebody a chance to win a position," Shanahan said.