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Exclusive: JP Finlay sits down with Jay Gruden after Redskins Week 1 loss to Eagles

Exclusive: JP Finlay sits down with Jay Gruden after Redskins Week 1 loss to Eagles

Following every Redskins game of the 2019 season, NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay will sit down with an exclusive, one-on-one interview with head coach Jay Gruden to discuss the team's performance.

Here's what Gruden had to say following the team's Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

You can listen to the interview on the latest Redskins Talk Podcast.

JP Finlay: Did you sleep at all after a night like that?

Jay Gruden: A little bit. You try to.

JP: How hard is it after that game, where your team played so well for 30 minutes, to then have the second 30 minutes, then try to remind yourselves it's game 1 of 16?

Gruden: Yeah, for sure. It's disappointing. We came out pretty strong, 17-0 lead. They had a big play to DeSean [Jackson], 17-7. We had a big stop, got a field goal at the end of the half to go up 20-7. Third quarter, we talked about the importance of coming out fast. They put together a nine-minute drive, scored a touchdown. We go three and out. They get a quick touchdown. By the time we get the ball, we're down one. Then we missed a couple throws here and there. A big penalty cost us, and the next time we get the ball we're down 29-20. It was tough. We have high expectations for our defense. It was surprising we couldn't get off the field on third downs. That's something we have to continue to work on and put an emphasis on.

JP: Case [Keenum] connected on the big touchdown throw to Terry McLaurin in the first half. In the second half, he missed one by two feet, I'd say. What's your reaction when you see that ball hit the turf?

Gruden: Yeah, it's hard. You're talking to your team like, 'we need some momentum-changing plays.' That's one that could have changed momentum and put it back in our favor. Unfortunately, we missed it, then we dropped a slant on the next play and had to punt. They still had the momentum. We did nothing to take the momentum over on special teams, defense, or offense. Somebody is going to have to step up and make a big play, and unfortunately, we couldn't do it.

JP: If you hit the home run there, the momentum swings. Even if [Paul Richardson] catches that ball, what difference could that have made in that game?

Gruden: It's a first down and we're moving the ball, moving the chains. We missed the post, then we missed that, and I don't know what happened after that. We had a couple of opportunities to make some plays, and we just didn't make them. We [have] to call better plays, but eventually, somebody has got to make a play.

JP: Looking ahead to Dallas now, it's Dallas week. I know everybody in the building is focused on that. Injury news with Derrius Guice, can you give us the latest on that?

Gruden: He had an MRI and is getting it checked out. We'll send him to a couple of specialists to make sure we get the right prognosis. If there's time he has to miss, or if he has to have anything done, we'll find out and get it taken care of. Most important thing getting it taken care of, then we'll go from there.

JP: How tough is it for a guy who played his first NFL game, I mean, he has 27 carries as a Redskin, and more than half of those are in the preseason. He missed one year, now he's getting [an] MRI, and there's speculation he could be missing some time, what do you say to that young guy?

Gruden: It's hard. This guy works his tail off to get back in shape and rehab from his last injury, and then to have something else come up possibly, it's hard for the guy. He's a very strong, talented guy. If it is something, he can overcome it. He's got a lot of years left to play. But hopefully, it's something he can deal with and play with. 

JP: Speaking of hard decisions with running backs, Adrian Peterson a healthy scratch Week 1. I believe that was the first healthy scratch of his career. Did you talk to him beforehand? Did he know what was coming?

Gruden: Yeah, of course.

JP: What's that conversation like?

Gruden: It's not easy. Adrian was on a couple of teams before we got him. It's hard sometimes to dress two backs on first down, two first down backs. You have to have guys who different things. You have to have a third-down back. Sometimes it's Chris Thompson, somebody else got to play third down. Somebody has to help on special teams. It's hard to get everybody up on a 46-man roster. We just chose to dress [Wendell] Smallwood for a special teams sake and only dress three running backs, which is something we've done since I've been here pretty much. So it was a tough decision, something you never want to do, especially with Adrian Peterson. It's one game. We could dress them all next week and the week after that. So we'll just address it next week. But this week, with Darren Sproles back there on punts and on the road, we thought it was important to really have the coverage unit in place. 

JP: If Guice can't go against Dallas, and maybe longer than that, how comfortable are you with AP back in that role?

Gruden: I'm very comfortable. [Guice and Peterson] are 1 and 1a to me. They're the same position. If something happens and Derrius can't go, we're happy to play AP and not even bat an eye. Hopefully Derrius will be fine, and eventually, there could be a situation we dress both of them and Chris Thompson. It's just a matter of where we are special teams wise that given week.

JP: Optimism with Jordan Reed? How close was he for Philly?

Gruden: I'm optimistic, yeah. Concussion-based symptoms are totally out of my control. I think he's feeling better. That's the most important thing. We'll get him checked out, get him some work and continue to expand on his workload and see how he's doing after that. If he's cleared to go, he'll be ready. 

JP: With his concussion history, have you ever talked to him about his long-term future, or is that not really your job?

Gruden: The concussion history is what it is. The doctors take very serious; the trainers take very seriously; the players take very seriously. We would never put him in there with any risk.

JP: Of course. It's crazy to think about how much has happened. It's a complicated matter I imagine.

Gruden: Yeah, it is. The most important thing is the players well being. We're not going to risk anything for Jordan Reed, that's for sure. We're going to make sure he's healthy. We would never put him in the lineup if there was any risk involved. 

JP: I'll let you go on this. Dallas looked pretty good against the Giants, I don't know if you were able to watch much of that. What's the key for the Redskins to beat the Cowboys?

Gruden: They're a good football team. The key is defensively, we obviously have to stop [Ezekiel Elliott]. Without a doubt. Amari Cooper hit us with a couple big plays last year, so they have a lot of weapons across the board. So we have to stop the run and make sure we play pass. We have to hit the quarterback. Last week against Carson Wentz, he patted the ball way too many times for my liking. We have to get after the quarterback. Offensively, we have to handle movement. They stunt, they twist, they do a great job in their defensive line games. We have to handle that and try to stay balanced.

JP: What was up with the defensive line in Philly? That's supposed to be the strength on your football team, and they sacked Carson Wentz once. 

Gruden: Yeah. Outside pass rushing, we have to do a better job. On the interior, they got a little bit gassed. When Jonathan [Allen] went out early, then Caleb [Brantley] went out early, we we're down to just three: [Tim] Settle, [Daron] Payne, and [Matt] Ioannidis. They got a little run down there on that long drive in the third quarter. Then we went three-and-out, and then we went three-and-out again. They were on the field a long time and they got a little bit gassed.

JP: The left side of your offensive line, there's been a lot of talk. Trent Williams is still holding out. What did you think of [Donald] Penn and [Ereck] Flowers?

Gruden: I thought they played great, man, for their first time playing together. Flowers made some serious strides about showing the potential he has at left guard. He protected, he competed, I was impressed with Flowers. I was impressed with Penn. He did a good job protecting as well and competing in the running game. 

JP: Saying this on the record to you, Flowers has been a bit of a punching bag for a while, maybe fairly or not. I thought he played well, too, and whatever jabs I may have taken, I'll back off for a week. 

Gruden: That's nice. I'm sure he appreciates that.

JP: I doubt he cares at all.


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Redskins Charitable Foundation donates over 2,500 food baskets at annual Harvest Feast

Redskins Charitable Foundation donates over 2,500 food baskets at annual Harvest Feast

The combination of frigid temperatures and the Redskins' scheduled off-day did not stop a few members of the Burgundy and Gold from giving back to the local Prince George's County community on Tuesday.

Linebacker Jon Bostic and offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom highlighted a handful of Washington players who participated in the Redskins Charitable Foundation's 17th annual Harvest Feast, an event designed to give back to the local community around Thanksgiving time.

Bostic and Bergstrom helped lead an effort with over 200 volunteers to put together 2,500 Thanksgiving food baskets that will be distributed to Prince George's County families in need on the holiday. Baskets include full turkeys and several side dishes for these families to get the full Thanksgiving experience.

As to why he chose to spend his little free time helping in the community, Bergstrom's answer was easy.

"This time of year, it’s all about giving thanks and being grateful," Bergstrom said. "We’re so grateful for a community that’s supported us through everything. So coming here and being able to be a part of their Thanksgiving, it’s awesome. Anything you can do to help."

In just a few hours, over 90,000 pounds of food and 30,000 pounds of turkey were packaged and ready to be sent out to those families.

Seeing young children volunteer at the event really stuck with Bostic, and that was one of the main reasons he wanted to give back.

"You see kids out here, I’ve been in places just like them," Bostic said. "Now, where I’m at, anytime I can help somebody else get to where I’m at, or give them some type of encouragement, I’m always up for that."

Both Bergstrom and Bostic have fond memories from Thanksgiving growing up and want families in their local community to experience something similar to what made their Thanksgivings so special.

“Every Thanksgiving, we’d go to my grandmother’s house and our whole family would be there," Bostic said. "You had people coming from all over, so I know how much I cherish family. So to be able to help them, get the family together, sit down and watch football, have a good time and enjoy each other, what more could you ask for?”

“Oh, man, it’s awesome. Football and Thanksgiving go together," Bergstrom said. "I grew up in Utah, but I was a Lions fan because of Thanksgiving. I probably couldn’t tell you a single guy on their team before that. Just being able to be a part of [these families] Thanksgiving is awesome. We’re making some Redskins fans for life.”

Several of the volunteers posed for pictures with the players and continuously thanked both Bostic and Bergstrom for coming out and giving back.

"Anytime you can put a smile on somebody’s face and better their day, that’s what we do it for," Bostic said.


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Adrian Peterson is not worried about splitting time with Derrius Guice, and there's one main reason why

Adrian Peterson is not worried about splitting time with Derrius Guice, and there's one main reason why

Entering the 2019 season, how the Redskins planned to split their rushing attack between veteran Adrian Peterson and second-year back Derrius Guice was sort of a mystery. Peterson was coming off a 1,000-yard season and proved he still has plenty in the tank, while Guice was in the final stages of his recovery from a torn ACL he suffered in August of 2018. 

But just hours prior to the Redskins Week 1 contest in Philadelphia, then-head coach Jay Gruden decided to make Peterson a healthy scratch for the first time in his career. The move did not sit well with Peterson and many of his veteran teammates. Guice injured his right meniscus in the loss and landed on Injured Reserve, forcing Gruden to activate Peterson the following week.

Peterson has been the Redskins lead running back since Guice's injury, but his production has greatly increased since interim head coach Bill Callahan took over in Week 6.

It's been nine weeks since Guice's injury, and he's healthy again and ready to play. For the first time in the 2019 season, both Peterson and Guice will be active when the Redskins host the Jets on Sunday.

So, will Peterson and Guice be the lead back going forward? While Peterson knows his role will slightly change, he's not worried about it. Why is that?

Well, there's one main reason: Jay Gruden is no longer the team's head coach.

"Yeah, coach Gruden was here," Peterson said. "He's no longer here, so it's a different scenario."

Peterson smiled a little while giving his response, but his message was clear. The 34-year-old was not pleased with his usage under Gruden in 2019.

While there seems to be a strained relationship between Peterson and his old head coach, there's no bad blood between Peterson and Guice. The veteran had to hold back tears after finding out about Guice's injury earlier in the season, and is looking forward to seeing what the duo can do in the coming weeks.

"It's going to be exciting. We were kind of just talking about it today as we were walking off the field," Peterson said on the duo. "Just having a guy, when you come out, you can kind of relax, because the guy that's in there is going to get the job done. It's going to be interesting to see how things go."

How Callahan determines the split between the two has yet to be determined, but both Peterson and Guice will have to be on their 'A' game on Sunday; only the Buccaneers allow less rushing yards per game than the Jets.