Due to a four and a half month lockout, this past offseason was strange for all NFL players. For sixth-year unrestricted free agent safety Reed Doughty, it brought about uncertainty as to where he would play or if there was even going to be a season at all.
"It was very different," Doughty said. "The longer it went on the stranger it felt. Missing a few workouts in March didn't feel like a big deal, but missing all OTA's and mini-camps felt weird."
Because the players were not allowed to work out with their own coaches or trainers employed by the team, it was left up to the athletes to take part in their own workouts, whether it was individually or in organized practices set up by teammates.
Led by linebackers London Fletcher and Lorenzo Alexander, the Redskins players decided to take part in their own mini-camps at a high school in Virginia. The camps were held in April, May, and June and averaged about 40 players per practice. Among those not present was Doughty, who stayed back home in Colorado.
"There were a few reasons I missed [the player-run mini-camps]. First and most importantly, my wife was on bed rest for the first set and our new baby was just a few weeks old for the second set [of player-run mini-camps]. Second, I was a free agent, so the risk of injury was too great and I didn't know if I was coming back," he said.
Despite staying back home during those camps, Doughty doesn't feel he missed anything that was of major importance. He knew they were catered around the new draftees but still stayed in touch with his teammates during that time.
“The workouts were designed to bring the young guys and rookies up to speed on the calls and learning the defense,” he said. “It was not designed to get you in shape. I kept in contact with London and Lorenzo to see what they were doing but they knew I would work hard and be in shape when training camp rolled around.”
Doughty feels that the biggest difference between working out individually and getting to work in mini-camps is the opportunity and build relationships with the new teammates and to continue to bond with old ones.
“There is an accountability when working out with teammates, with the training staff, and when coaches are around. It was much more difficult mentally to make sure to work hard and get your workouts in,” he said.
“I am a professional. I take what I do seriously. I knew that being a leader and a good teammate meant I had to make sure I was in shape if and when the season started. Early in the offseason I did a modified CrossFit workout with a former college teammate who trained me. Then later in the summer I worked out with a local college program. All my workouts were either competitive against time or another athlete.”
It wasn’t until late July when a new 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement was agreed upon that Doughty would be able to plan for a future team and resume training with teammates.
“Free agency didn't open until training camp was just about underway so I only had about a week. I treated this offseason no different than my previous five years. I started working out in March, ramped things up in May and was ready for training camp when it started in July. I have kept a workout journal for the last two years so I know exact times, weights, and yardages for runs and lifts I did with the Skins. I knew what workouts to do to be ready for camp,” Doughty said.
During the hectic free agency period, he kept a cool head and was in continuous contact with his agent to determine his contract status for the 2011 season.
“It was an abnormal year. I had to workout and be ready for training camp even though I didn't know what team I would be playing for. I trusted my agent Dave Butz II that he would find me a good fit,” he said.
“When free agency starts, teams generally contact the agent if they are interested,” he continued. “I did get calls from position coaches and defensive coordinators as well, letting me know how I would fit into their scheme. My agent let me know offers from teams and gave me advice on where he thought I best fit. In the end we made a decision that we felt was best. I am glad to be back with the Redskins.”
Given the multiple offers his agent received, Doughty says that there were no offers from his hometown Denver Broncos, despite their desperate need for defensive upgrades.
“Free agency is all about finding the best situation for your family, playing time, and finances. My agent was in contact with many teams and had interest from many teams but you don't just pick a team. The Broncos were not a team that reached out to us,” Doughty said.
There were several reasons that led the 28 year-old to return to the burgundy and gold as opposed to finding a new home.
“The Redskins were the best fit,” he said. “I knew the system and had played well in the system. I knew I could step in and start or play special teams without missing a beat. It is a great fit and I'm happy to be back. Because of the new rules this year, even though I could have signed immediately when free agency opened, I couldn't practice until August 4th. Even though I signed a week after free agency started, I practiced the same day as all the other free agents, even those who signed day one of free agency. No time was lost.”
One of the biggest concerns regarding the lockout was the level of physical and mental fitness that the players would be in when training camp and preseason games resumed. Doughty said that was not a problem and it did not take him long to get back into football shape.
“I am exactly where I thought I would be. I was in shape and prepared for camp and feel like I have had a good training camp. I was anxious to see how long it would take me to get back into the football mindset. After two or three days of training camp I felt like I hadn't missed a beat,” he said.
While smoothly transitioning back into the Redskins defense for his second year in the 3-4, Doughty has also been given the chance to start and earn significant playing time in the preseason due to the injuries that have struck new safety Oshiomogho Atogwe and potential Pro Bowler LaRon Landry.
“Anytime you get more reps you have the opportunity to learn from mistakes and get better. I have a firm grasp on the system but playing well is as much experience as it is academic. There is only so much you can learn in the classroom,” he said.
Atogwe is one of many new key additions to the Redskins defense that suffered mightily in 2010. However, the position that was most overhauled was the defensive line and that is where Doughty thinks this team is most improved as well.
“The defense has improved because of the better understanding and overall grasp of the defense. The biggest difference maker is the whole d-line. Kerrigan, Bowen, and Cofield are additions that will help solidify our run defense and increase pressure in the passing game (of course in addition to Rak, Carriker, Golston, etc.),” Doughty said.
The new acquisitions are part of the team’s new approach to drafting and free agency. No big names, no stealing headlines, just young players who fit.
“I was encouraged that they pursued players that fit the system and knew their role and would help the team win,” Doughty said.
They have helped bring a new attitude to the team and it is most certainly noticed by Doughty, especially after how well the team has performed in the preseason.
“We have an infusion of young talent, some key veterans, and lot of guys who know their role and play it well. I didn't know what to expect [heading into the preseason] but I like what I have seen thus far,” he said.
After three games, fans like what they have seen as well. The new mentality has been put on display with very solid work being put in by the starters against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens. The Redskins are fourth overall in both offense and defense this preseason.
“We are hungry. We want to turn over a new leaf. I hope fans will see a team that will sacrifice for the good of the team, play as a team, and win as a team,” he said.
While preseason results don’t translate into regular season wins or losses because they are separate entities, it does show that the team is grasping the zone blocking scheme and the 3-4 defense much better than a year ago. Progress is being made and by re-signing with the Redskins, Doughty is showing that he wants to be apart of it.