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Lombardi in Carlisle 07.10.69

Lombardi in Carlisle 07.10.69

It was 40 years ago today that Vince Lombardi had the first practice of his only training camp with the Redskins. It ushered in an era of hope that came to a crushing end when Lombardi died of cancer before he could conduct his second training camp. He brought the team its first winning season in 25 years.

We often think that Lombardi was relatively old by the time he came here but the man accomplished a lot in a hurry. He was 57 when he dies; Jim Zorn just turned 56

You can read an account of every game of Lombardi's Redskins career in my new book The Redskins Chronicle, now on sale.

July 10, was the day that the 1969 Redskins were to start training camp at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. For months, the Redskins players looked towards that date with a mix of hope and fear. The hope was that Vince Lombardi, who had been hired as head coach in February of that year, could lift the moribund Washington franchise to glory. The fear came from what they had heard of the methods he would use to do so. As cornerback Pat Fischer said, "Lombardi was preceded by his reputation."

That reputation came from comments such as those made by Henry Jordan, a player for Lombardi in Green Bay.

"He treats us all the same," said Jordan of his coach. "Like dogs."

Especially notorious was the grass drill. The players would run in place, knees pumping up high and then, on Lombardi's command, flop onto the ground. Failure to spring back up immediately and resume the fervent churning of the legs would usually result in a public tongue-lashing by the coach. In Carlisle he ran the grass drill unmercifully, cursing at the n on-performers so loudly that Dickinson secretaries working near the field complained to the dean of the college.

"There are two ways of motivation," said Sam Huff, who had come out of retirement to become a player-coach under Lombardi. "One is through fear and the other is through group motivation. Lombardi motivated through fear."

A big fear that players had was for their jobs. Being cut was always a clear and present danger for those who did not do things Lombardi's way. Even being a recent first-round draft pick didn't grant any immunity. When fullback Ray McDonald showed up late for the team's first meeting in Carlisle, Lombardi stopped speaking and asked the third-year player what his name was. "Ray McDonald," the player said. Those were his last words as a Redskin as Lombardi announced to the team right then and there that McDonald had been cut. From then on, job security dictated that one keep one's watch set to Lombardi Time, which was ten minutes faster than Eastern Time.

One player whose job appeared to be safe was quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. Not only did he have Hall of Fame talent, but also he fully bought in to Lombardi's methods. The signal caller who NFL Films' John Facenda once described as possessing "a=2 0hairline going north and a belt line going south" had once blown off his head coach's suggestion that he improve his conditioning, telling Otto Graham, "I don't throw the ball with my stomach." Now, however, he was flopping on the Carlisle turf with the rest of them.

Nobody was spared the wrath of Lombardi, not even his own flesh and blood. His brother Joe had recently been hired by a sporting goods company and thought he would take advantage of his family connection to bring a couple of the company's executives out onto the practice field. Lombardi ejected all three of them, using more of that language that made the secretaries blush.

As players such as McDonald and some rookies who packed up and bolted in the middle of the night fell by the wayside, replacements had to be found. Vince Lombardi wasn't a mere raving tyrant; he had an uncanny knack for finding talent. The coach was chatting with Jurgensen after the first practice when Lombardi pointed to a rookie running back out of Kansas State. "See that [rookie] over there in the overalls?" said the coach of the eighth-round draft pick. "When the rest of these guys are gone, he'll still be here." Lombardi was pointing at Larry Brown.

As camp wore on Brown continued to impress the coach with his ability, but the back always seemed to be a half step slow getting off the ball. "Does that Brown hear," Lombardi asked one night at a coaches' meeting. They decided to find out and, sure enough, a test revealed that Brown was quite deaf in one ear.

The team fitted Brown's helmet with a hearing aid that transferred sound from the side of his head with the bad ear into the good ear and the results were immediate and impressive. A couple of days later Brown scored two touchdowns in the exhibition season opener at RFK Stadium. A few days after that, assistant coach George Dickson saw Lombardi with his arm draped around Brown's shoulders. Later on, knowing that Lombardi doesn't show such affection to just anyone, Dickson went up to Brown and said, "Son, you've got this ball club made." Brown went on to rush for 888 yards in his rookie season and 5,875 in his seven-year career.

With Brown and a fit Jurgensen in starring roles, Lombardi led the Redskins to a 7-5-2 record, their first winning record since 1955.

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197

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Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price


Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins. 

Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average. 

A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive. 

It's not all good news with Bryant, though.

He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media. 


Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is. 

Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD. 

Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded. 

Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense. 

The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.

The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable. 

Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder. 

This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!