ASHBURN, Va. -- It still hasn't sunk in for Jahan Dotson just yet.
Following the completion of training camp practice No. 1, the Commanders' first-round pick admitted Wednesday's session felt closer to this past spring's OTAs and minicamp than the fall camp practices he went through at Penn State.
"Once we get the pads on, it'll probably feel a little different," Dotson said.
Although Wednesday's training camp practice did have the feel of an offseason workout -- the Commanders took the field in t-shirts, shorts and helmets, as full padded practices are not permitted until next week -- there was one important member of the organization present that was absent this spring. That would be star receiver Terry McLaurin, who skipped all of Washington's offseason program while going through contract negotiations before signing a three-year, $71 million extension in early July.
Dotson first had the chance to meet McLaurin in Los Angeles shortly after McLaurin signed his new deal, as Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz flew out several of Washington's offensive skill players to California to spend time together and get some extra work in. Wentz, McLaurin and Dotson were joined by Taylor Heinicke, Antonio Gibson, Cam Sims, Cole Turner, and Dax Milne.
Immediately after meeting McLaurin out in LA, Dotson understood why No. 17 is so well-liked among his teammates and coaches.
"Terry, meeting him for the first time, a great dude, humble dude," Dotson said. "You can tell just talking to Terry why people like him so much. He's so genuine, trying to help me out in any way he could. Super thankful to have him back here and just learn from him every day."
Although he didn't have the chance to pick McLaurin's brain during OTAs and minicamp, Dotson was able to do so during those few days in California. He made it a point to be as coachable as possible when learning from McLaurin, hoping to improve a few areas of his game before returning to Ashburn for training camp.
"He has a lot of knowledge. He's one of the best receivers in the game," Dotson said. "Just learning everything possible from him and being a sponge."
McLaurin's leadership style is another thing that Dotson picked up on when they spent a few days together. McLaurin was willing to help the rookie wide receiver whenever he asked a question, but the two-time team captain also went out of his way to give Dotson a tip here or there unprompted.
"He'll be very hands-on, he'll be out here trying to teach me how to run something," Dotson said. "If I have a question, he's going to answer it as best as possible. It's really cool to have him here. He's really easy to talk to and someone I can learn from a lot."
News that Wentz was holding a throwing session in Los Angeles with several teammates broke during McLaurin's post-extension press conference on July 6. McLaurin actually arrived a day late, as the press conference was the same day the first session in LA took place.
Following that press conference, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera admitted he was thrilled to see Washington's new quarterback take the initiative to organize an off-site team meet-up the way Wentz did. For Rivera, that time his players spent together in California was just as much about bonding as teammates than Xs and Os.
After the throwing sessions were finished, Dotson said several players would go hang out on the beach or go out to eat. The rookie, admittedly not a seafood person, tried calamari for the first time and said it was "something he would try again." The transition from college to the NFL is typically tough for rookies, but spending time together like Dotson and his teammates did in California will only make it easier.
"It was definitely pretty cool spending some time with the guys, getting together before training camp," Dotson said. "Go out to eat, try some new foods. Just chillin', talking about stories we've had. Just being guys."
Now back in Ashburn, Dotson and his teammates know it's time to get to work. Rivera has made it clear this offseason that he expects the team to make a jump in Year 3 of his leadership. While the head coach didn't go as far as saying the 2022 season is playoffs-or-bust, Rivera did say Tuesday that "we expect to win and we'll leave it at that."
Dotson doesn't feel the pressure that would come with that sense of urgency, though. At least not yet. Right now, the rookie is focused on getting better each day, fine-tuning his craft as he prepares for his first professional season.
"Just coming in, trying to learn day by day, just trying to compete every day out here playing against the best guys at the best level of football every day just having fun," Dotson said. "That's all it is to me."