I’m going to do this write up a little different. I will give an overview of the highlights and then I thought I would do a chronology of events from prior to practice to the end to give those of you who haven’t gone a pretty clear flavor of how these things go.
The Highlights: This no-pads practice was not nearly as intense as yesterday afternoon’s practice. I did not get to go to the morning practice, but I heard from fans that it wasn’t that intense compared to Monday either (Also I heard Weurfle stunk up the joint).
QB: Its pretty clear that Johnson is the solid #2 guy right now. The breakdown of time for QB is something 65% Ramsey, 35% Johson, 15% Weurfle. Worse for Weurfle, in scrimmages, Ramsey and Johnson take almost all the snaps. Ramsey was very streaky this afternoon (although I hear he was very sharp this morning). He would go for long bursts of great passes followed by 3 or 4 clunkers. He bombed the crowd (the VIPs so they deserved it!) twice today on non-intentional overthrows. Johnson looked about like he did on Saturday – some really nice plays and some not so nice ones. This is a real improvement over the beginning of last week though.
Scrimages: The highlight of the scrimmages were the last ones of practice, where, for a stretch they were actually tackling even though there were no pads. Smoot and Jacobs got into a mini brawl over a pass by Ramsey that they both caught at the same time. The impact of them hitting was as loud as any hit with pads. They went to the ground wrestling for the ball (This looked like real wrestling). Eventually they were broken up, with Smoot, being the show off that he is, prancing around with the ball over his head.
Injuries/concerns: Only two concerns from this one. In the middle, Kevin Mitchell went down with what looked like a leg cramp. He was having it stretched for like 10 minutes. Also, for some reason, McCants was not participating in the later scrimmages. Don’t know if he was injured or what not. Finally, Flowers was consistently taking the 5th place reps ahead of Cloman. Don’t know if this indicates order, but it seems to.
People looking Good/Bad: There were a number of drops. The most disheartening involved Flemister in the TE drills. He seemed distraught afterwords, and having the crowd boo, followed by about 2 minutes of coaching and then having redo it did not improve his mood. He was sulking for quite a while. Russell looked worse then I’ve seen him before. Jacobs looked terrific, making a number of tough catches. Also, I swear I must have seen Hall boot 30 some kicks in a row without missing any. That guy has awesome form. I just hope it translates into game situations.
Timeline for the 4:00 afternoon practice
3:10 PM: I arrive at Redskins Park. Experience has taught me that you have to be really early to the afternoon practices to get front row seats in the loser (non-VIP) section. I was in the third row of cars (the row where the line expands to the full parking lot for those of you who have gone), and quickly took my fold up chair, umbrella and backpack and started walking. I got a front row seat right at the right side 40 yard line on the front right field. When I arrived it was both windy and pouring rain.
3:30 PM: The rain had stopped, but still periodically dripped. Only two players are out. Bartholomew (the other punter) and Hall (the Kicker, without his jersey) are out and are passing the ball to one another. Bartholomew throws ok, but Hall could easily pass for a college QB. His passes easily went 30 yards accurately with awesome speed and spin. I’m sure he could have thrown lots farther but this was the extent of Bartholomew’s range. Eventually Barker (last year’s sorry ass punter) makes it out. He and Bartholomew seem to get along great.
Barker is playing around a bit while Bartholomew starts holding for Hall to practice FGs. They are at the 25 yard line (so these are 35 Yard kicks) and like Monday, Hall is aiming for the Crowsnest guy who is going up very slowly in the fire-engine like orange crane. Its amazing – Hall is not only making the FGs, but is consistently nailing the crowsnest guy or the pole like 50% of the time! The crowd was blown away. I mean geeze, if this guy can aim it like that, how does he ever miss? Anyways, after the crowsnest guy gets up, Hall is all business, and is effortlessly hitting one after another right up the middle. I notice that he is not doing this on the hash marks, but is directly in the middle of the field.
On the other side of the field (the right side), a guy is setting the Kickoff machine (I described this in my last post – It basically shoots a ball 40 yards end over end in the air for the receivers to catch). This in itself wasn’t interesting, but there was a coach, not sure who it was (a very large and muscular black guy wearing gray who works with the defense), he would sit down right and the goal line and heave the ball to see how far he could throw it. I swear to God we saw him throw two balls to the 45 yard line from a sitting position! This guy was strong! Not all of them went this far. He tried this like 10 times.
3:40 PM: Ethan Albright, the long snapper has joined the kickers. Now Barker is also holding. The Special teams coach comes out on crutches (he was like this on Monday too, must’ve sprained a leg while inserting it in the special team’s player’s rear ends this weekend) and tells them to practice “hurry up kick drills.” He said, “You have 30 seconds to set up and kick it. Now go over to the sidelines and get ready…Now!” The three of them run out, set up, and Hall sends in a 45 yard kick from the left hash mark. They do this again from the right hash mark.
3:50 PM: The Kick returners have assembled on the right end zone. The kicking machine commences. Although no coaches were present, the order of the kick returners were Morton, Cartwright, Johnson, Coles, Jacobs, Gillespie, Younger, Flowers, and McCullough (now permanently wearing #22). The machine was swung from the middle, to the left and then to the right.
On the middle of the field, the masses were congregating. The mood was as jovial as last week. Randy Thomas was the most vocal. He was yelling, “Please Rain…Please Rain…Its Gotta Rain…” I can only assume that he was hoping for practice to be cancelled.
3:55 PM: The kick returners are now fielding “bouncing” kicks in which the machine is aimed straight ahead, causing the ball to bounce about 20 yards in front of it. Again, no drops. There was a camera guy on the ground filming all of this, which is unusual, as I pointed out on Monday. Spurrier is definitely putting a heavy emphasis on special teams.
4:00 PM: Warmups commence. This is the beginning of the practice. Usually, all the position guys practice close to one another. Lavar arrives right at 4:00 as is his habit. He has a grey/red silk looking undershirt on, with his Jersey around his neck, slung over his shoulder and back like a cape. He looks cool and he knows it. As is normal, Coles warms up right next to Ramsey.
4:10 PM: The warm-ups break up and everyone goes to position drills. The defense takes the opposite left far field while the offense stays on the main practice field. The Oline is in the left endzone, the RBs are in the middle, front left, the TEs in the middle back left; the QBs are in the middle right and the receivers are in the right back. Everyone, on offense and defense are doing footwork drills of various types. The QBs are doing really weird, intricate backwards and side stepping drills that almost look like a dance. Rob Johnson seems to do these better than the others. On the Defense, I saw through my Binocs that they were going throw tires or ropes – Bernard Holsey fell while doing these, but everyone else seemed ok.
WRs: The WRs started doing “out” pass routes and were being thrown to by the WR coach. Suffice to say that the QBs jobs are NOT in jeopardy from this guy. There were a number of incompleted passes, but they were all due to un-catchable balls! We are talking only 15 yards passes here too.
TEs: the TEs were practicing over-the-middle routes. Kevin Ware dropped one, followed by Zeron “Butter-Fingers” Flemister. After he missed, he simply stopped moving, and had his hands on his hips while looking down. The TE coach came over and was not talking all that pleasantly to him. He started showing him how to hold his hands. Zeron was asked to repeat the drill, and after catching it, basically sulked around for a bit. He is obviously not thrilled with dropping these. If he loses his job here, he should really contact M&M-Mars Corp – he is the perfect spokesmen for the butterfinger candy bar.
The RBs did their usual assortment off drills followed by pass protection drills (a good thing considering Saturday’s game – Trung missed on block resulting in a sack).
4:23 PM: the QBs join the WRs and do passing drills on the right side of the field.
4:25 PM: The TEs and RBs are doing passing drills with Gibran Hamden passing. They start having two go out, a RB short over the middle and a TE 15-20 yards over the middle. A coach throws to the second one (he throws lots better than the WR coach). Both Robert Royal and Lenard Stephens dropped passes in this drill (Royal’s was hard but catchable).
During this time the DLineman are doing handwork drills, the Olineman are doing snapping drills and the LBs and DBs are doing footwork/interception drills.
The QBs are throwing to spots for the receivers to catch. Ethan Albright (71) is snapping for the QBs. Spurrier is doing lots of coaching. At one point he basically holds court and is obviously teaching them some theoretical thing about the offense. Everyone stands in a semi-circle around him listening.
4:35 PM – Horn sounds: Everyone comes back to the middle of the field. An 11 on 11 scrimmage ensues going from right to left. Ramsey is the QB. Ladell Betts is also participating in the scrimmage. The first throw is to Rod Garder who has Smoot on him. Gardner drops the catch and appears to have jammed his right finger. He is continually shaking his right hand. He was in later scrimmages, so I hope it wasn’t too bad. On the second play, Jacobs badly fakes out smoot on a comeback hook on the close (left) side of the field. Cloman gets a 20 yard reception on the far side of the field. Flowers then makes a 10 yard grab over the middle.
Ramsey was dead on for every one of these, and then came a bad streak. Ramsey overthrows Gardner and the ball hits the VIP crowd, and bounces off a 5 year old girl’s head. She now seems far less interested in sitting near the field. Ramsey then overthrows Jacobs on a 40 yard pass down the left hand side. He then misses Flowers (overthrown again) on a 15 yarder over the middle. Finally he “rights the ship” with an awesome 40 yard throw down the right hand side to Patrick Woodcock.
Johnson comes in but only gets to do two plays before the horn sounds. On the first play, he takes over 4 seconds before finally releasing a 10 yard pass to the right to Cartwright. The next pass, he releases at 3 seconds on the dot to Jacobs for a 20 yard pass over the middle.
4:45 PM Horn Sounds: They are now doing kickoff drills, with all the people who participate on special teams. Those who are never on special teams are just standing around. They are doing regular kickoffs and then start doing hurry-up kickoffs. The coach with the crutches is leading this.
4:50 PM: They start practicing onside kicks. The coach yells, “There is 25 Seconds on the clock!” The players quickly line up and kick.
4:52 PM – The special teams folks start doing hitting drills, where they first run to and push off a padded tackle post and then tackle a cone. Presumably, this is practicing for when the kicking team is running down the field, uses their hands to free themselves (push off) from the opposing players and then tackle the ball carrier.
4:55 PM – The Horn sounds. Most groups break into to position drills. The Dline practices lining up for pass coverage. The Online stands around listening to the coach. The most interesting drill was with the QBs/RBs/TEs/WRs. Ramsey would line up with 4 receivers and one RB and hike the ball (Ethan Albright again). All 5 would go out. They did all sorts of routes. I am guessing we will see some 5 person patterns, but one has to wonder who is protecting Ramsey in all this.
5:03 PM They break up and go into 7 on 7 drills. These are with everyone but linemen. The Oline and Dline are still doing position drills. During this drill, Kevin Mitchell looks like he developed a leg cramp in his right leg and lays on the ground to have an assistant stretch it. In this drill, the offense looked really sharp. Both Johnson and Ramsey looked great, as did the receivers. Danny did not get to play.
5:10 PM– the Horn sounds: They start the best, most intense part of practice, an 11 on 11 drill. It has the feel of a hurry up offense, with the coaches continually yelling at them, “Lets Go, Lets Go!”. Every time a play is done, the assistant quickly run and get the ball and put it down for the next play. Sometimes they move up to where the play ended. Sometimes they move back. Other times they stay where they were.
Ramsey opened up with a strike to Flowers to the right sideline. Then the fun started. Ramsey threw one to Jacobs to the left middle (near to the crowd, and right in front of me on the 40 yard line!). Jacobs seemed to get there a second before Smoot, but both were going for the ball at top speed. When they collided, they sounded as loud without pads as any hit I’ve heard with pads. They immediately started wrestling with each other on the ground in a not-so-friendly fashion. It was a fight in every respect except for no fists being thrown. Everyone crowded around, and eventually, when they were broken up, Smoot emerged with the ball. He held it up for the crowd which cheered mightily. After that play, there was real tackling for the next few plays (without pads!). It was the first time in this practice that things got intense. In one play, Coles beat Champ (barely) over the middle for a 20 yard strike (this was one of the few plays thrown Champ’s way all day). On another Play, Russell dropped an easy overhead catch while smoot was on him. This was hurry-up offense so a lot of passes took place in a really short time period.
5:20 PM – Johnson takes over and immediately fumbles the shotgun snap. Rob is generally sharp in this drill. On one pass, he threw a perfect 40 yarder, threading double coverage to Sean Dillard over the middle, only to have Sean “Flemister” the pass. It was the best pass of the day and it was dropped by a receiver with little chance of making the team. The crowd was making comments like “Pack your bags buddy, its check out time!” On another play Fred Booker was going against Russell on a long one down the left hand side; for some reason, Booker thought Russell was his dance partner and held him all the way down the field. The DB coach absolutely lit into Booker. He was screaming at him for a solid 30 seconds. Jacobs, the star of the practice, made another spectacular catch right into the VIPs. Johnson then grounded a pass over the middle, and then made a nice pass to Flowers.
5:25 PM - the Horn sounded, ending practice. All the players huddled together to here words from Spurrier, and then yelled “Redskins!” For Autographs, I got Trung (one of only 10 people who got him) and Garder! Gardner was a real fan favorite, and was even taking pictures with kids and stuff. I also got Brandon Noble – wuf! Now, I don’t usually talk about guys, but this dude looks scary! From his looks, he could easily be mistaken for one of those kooky Montana axe murderers living in the wilderness. He was pretty nice though, and signed tuns of autographs.
This is probably my last evening practice. The morning ones are better. I will try to get one on Thursday or Friday to see how they look prior to gametime.
This article was released on 2003-08-12.
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