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New Redskins safety Sean Davis, Maryland native and Terp alum, thrilled to be back in DMV

New Redskins safety Sean Davis, Maryland native and Terp alum, thrilled to be back in DMV

For newly signed Redskins safety Sean Davis, the opportunity to sign with Washington meant a lot more than just having the chance to play opposite Landon Collins.

Davis was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Temple Hills, Md., roughly a 20-minute drive from FedEx Field, where the Redskins play their home games. After a standout high school career at Maret School in the nation's capital, he chose to play his college ball just up the street at the University of Maryland.

So when the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him with the 58th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, it was Davis' first time truly leaving the Washington, D.C. area. After four seasons with the Steelers, Davis signed a one-year deal with the Redskins this offseason, and couldn't be happier to return home.

"I'm so happy to be home, so happy to put on for my city, man," Davis told Redskins Nation on Thursday. (Watch the full interview on Redskins Nation at 5:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington).

After starting nine games for the Steelers as a rookie in 2016, Davis became a full-time starter in his second year in the league. Over the next two seasons, Davis would start 31 of a possible 32 games, playing both the free and strong safety positions. But in 2019, the final year of Davis' rookie contract, the safety suffered a shoulder injury and was placed on Injured Reserve, appearing in just one game.

For the first time in his career, Davis had to watch football from the sidelines. Although he was unable to play out his final season in Pittsburgh, Davis believes his year off will end up making him a better player in the long run.

"Last year was hard. I've been a starter forever, been on the field my whole life," Davis said. "So for the first time to be sidelined, really having no say or control, it was tough. But it challenged my mind. I became so much more mentally tough, and I think I'm much more prepared for the scary things that happen in the NFL. But it battle-hearted me, made me ready, and I'm ready to go forward this season. I'm ready to go back out on the field."

While Davis didn't have any film from 2019 to showcase to teams interested in his services, he said his free agency process went rather smoothly. Washington has a major hole to fill at the free safety position next to Collins, and Davis should be able to slide right in. 

By signing a one-year deal with the Redskins, Davis has the chance to set himself up for a lucrative pay-day next offseason, should he perform to up his capability with the Burgundy and Gold. He's just 26, and has been largely durable throughout his career besides this past season.

"Everything worked out smooth with the Redskins. It was an ideal situation for me and my family," Davis said. "Having a year off, and really having a show-it year, prove-it year, what other way to do it then in front of my family and friends in my backyard? I'm really just working hard, not to prove everyone wrong, but to make everyone proud. Put smiles on people's faces. I'm really happy to be a Redskin."

In Pittsburgh, Davis played under Mike Tomlin, a defensive-minded head coach and one of the NFL's most successful coaches of recent memory. Now in Washington, the safety has an opportunity to play for another well-respected, defensive-minded head coach in Ron Rivera.

Davis has yet to meet Rivera, as the coronavirus pandemic has prohibited and impacted a lot of typical offseason activities from happening. But the safety is thrilled to learn from the new Redskins head coach.

"I know he's a great coach, I've heard so many great things about him," Davis said. "I can't wait to put on that burgundy and gold and lace-up. I'm really going to be a sponge when I get up there, taking it all in and maxing out. I'm really looking forward to meeting him."

As Davis continues to make himself at home with the Redskins, there's one big decision he'll have to make soon: what number to wear.

The safety tries to emulate his game after the late Sean Taylor, and sported Taylor's No. 21 during his final two seasons in Pittsburgh. Davis will not wear 21 in Washington, as that number has not been worn by any Redskins player since Taylor's tragic death in 2007.

"What Sean meant to me was everything," Davis said. "He taught me how to be a safety. How to roam deep, how to attack, instill fear in opposing receivers and everything. I love everything about him. It sucks that he was taken from us. I can't continue his legacy, but I'm going to play as hard as I can and play like Sean Taylor as long as I can."

Prior to wearing No. 21, Davis wore 28 his first two seasons with the Steelers. That number has not been officially retired by the Redskins, but no player has worn it since Hall of Famer Darrell Green retired in 2002.

"Numbers are important to me, so that process is going to be different," Davis said. "[No. 28], that's a great number that I probably can't wear. So going through that process is going to be difficult."

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Why one analyst thinks a DJ Moore-like role would be perfect for Antonio Gibson on the Redskins

Why one analyst thinks a DJ Moore-like role would be perfect for Antonio Gibson on the Redskins

The Redskins have a grand vision for how they want to use Antonio Gibson on offense. Not everyone agrees that's the best way to incorporate the third-round pick, though.

During an interview with the Redskins Talk podcast, NBC Sports analyst Josh Norris explained that he's actually "a little nervous" about Washington's plans for Gibson. To him, the "Swiss Army Knife ideas" that are so prevalent in the NFL (and come up so often when imagining Gibson's role as a pro) aren't as functional in practice as they are in theory.

Instead, Norris would rather the Redskins line Gibson up at one spot for the majority of his snaps and focus on getting him involved there, as opposed to sprinkling him in at running back as well as at inside and outside receiver.

In fact, according to Norris, one thriving player in the league has a game that's very similar to Gibson's and that player's team has figured out how to use him perfectly. Conveniently enough for the Burgundy and Gold, their new offensive coordinator has already worked with the guy, too.

"I’d look at Scott Turner in his past and what he did last year with DJ Moore is how I, personally, would use Antonio Gibson," Norris told Redskins Talk. "DJ Moore is not, if you look at his skills and where he’s best, I wouldn’t put route running at the top. What he is best at are slants and routes across the formation like drags and getting the ball in his hands. Antonio Gibson can do all of that stuff."

It sure seems like the organization intends to use the Memphis product as a running back, at least early on in his career. They even gave him a running back's number back in late April.

While Norris acknowledged the backfield is where Gibson could make the easiest transition, he believes the "absolute monster after the catch" could really do damage out of the slot if Turner's willing to feature him that way.

"If you want, put him there and let him dominate in the middle of the field and take those fun and exciting touches in the backfield," Norris said. "To me, that’s his best role. Not being like, ‘OK, now we’re going to take Derrius Guice out of the ball game and put Antonio Gibson here for three snaps.’"

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Gibson can do some really rare things for someone his size, but he's still quite raw in some aspects. That, combined with an offseason where in-person coaching and 11-on-11 reps will be super limited, may prevent him from really contributing early. 

To help speed up that process, Norris suggested looking at what the Seahawks did with DK Metcalf and the 49ers did with Deebo Samuel in 2019, in addition to how the Panthers have deployed Moore.

With Metcalf and Samuel, for example, Seattle and San Fran "kept things super simple for them and then just added as the year went along." For the first handful of weeks last year, those two weren't asked to handle much more than what they had to manage in college.

If the Redskins follow that blueprint with Gibson, Norris is confident they can get yards and scores out of him right away, then watch him develop even more as he gains experience.

"Antonio Gibson is the type of player that needs to be on the field in an offense that lacks that explosion completely," he concluded.

Turner, Ron Rivera and everyone other decision maker with Washington surely agrees with that statement, which is why they selected Gibson 66th overall in the draft. Yet just because Gibson can do a lot doesn't mean he will do a lot.

The Redskins have the makings of a dangerous offensive tool in Gibson, yes, but they have a ways to go before he turns into one. And while the team and Norris may disagree on what position that's most likely to occur at, they surely intersect when it comes to wanting to highlight his abilities with the ball in his hands.

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Experiences at stadiums and arenas will be different when sports return

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Experiences at stadiums and arenas will be different when sports return

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The smell of barbecue wafts through the parking lots hours before kickoff at Arrowhead Stadium, and when the first salvo of fireworks explode overhead, thousands of Chiefs fans begin to march en masse toward the entrance gates.

That's how things normally are on an NFL game day in Kansas City.

But these days, very little is normal, and like so many things in life the football season ahead is rife with uncertainty. The coronavirus pandemic that brought sports to a standstill for months has everyone wondering what games will be like when spectators are finally allowed back in -- and whether they will even want to show up.

The changes will be big and small, temporary and long-lasting.

Fans could have their every move scrutinized by cameras and lasers. There might be nobody in the next seat to high-five after a touchdown. The idea of passing cash to a beer vendor between innings will be a memory. Temperature screenings and medical checks could be mandatory to get in. By having virtual tickets scanned on their smart phones, fans could be acknowledging the health risk of attending a game while surrendering some of their personal privacy.

It all begs the question: Will fans be able to have any fun?

"There's a wealth of unanticipated casualties, I guess, that are going to be part of this, things we all took for granted as part of the live game-day experience," explained Nate Appleman, director of the sports, recreation and entertainment practice for Kansas City-based architectural firm HOK. "Some things we have yet to fathom but will become painfully clear once we are allowed back into venues and get back to truly human nature, which is to gather and celebrate community."

Some leagues are returning with few or no fans, including soccer in Germany, stock car racing in the U.S. and baseball in Japan. But as sports ramp up, The Associated Press found during interviews with more than two dozen experts in stadium design and infrastructure that the only thing that might look the same is what happens on the field of play.

The biggest short-term change will be social distancing, something that already has become a fact of everyday life. Ticket sales will be capped. Entire rows and sections will be blocked off. Seats on the aisle will be left open to maintain a buffer from those walking up the stairs. Fans will be given an entrance time to prevent crowding at the gates. Lines at restrooms and concessions will be limited. Congregating in the corridors will no longer be allowed.

The college football season is still some three months away, yet Iowa State anticipates capacity at Jack Trice Stadium will be cut in half based on "current guidelines established by state and local officials" -- roughly the number of fans that have purchased season tickets. At Kansas, athletic director Jeff Long said the Jayhawks have planned for some 16,000 fans in Memorial Stadium this fall -- about a third of official capacity.

Several NFL teams, including Miami and New Orleans, are modeling for reduced capacities this season. It will no doubt look different for fans in the stadium, not to mention the millions that will tune in on TV.

"There's the old saying, `Necessity is the mother of invention.' I would say we're in a heightened situation of necessity right now," Appleman said. "There are a lot of really smart people coming up with really cool initiatives that could just be a new way of doing things, and new isn't always bad. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes we have to adapt."

Indeed, such plans bring both hope and fear: hope that some fans will be able to see their favorite teams live and fear that colleges and leagues such as Major League Soccer that rely heavily on ticket sales will be able to make ends meet.

To help fill some of those gaps -- both optically and financially -- many facility operators have been exploring options with firms such as Arizona-based Bluemedia, which designs and produces screens that can cover large swaths of seats. Such screens already are used when arenas want to cap capacity or create more intimate settings, but Bluemedia vice president R.J. Orr said those same products can present sponsorship and marketing opportunities.

"Of course they can sell advertising," Orr said, "but there are many ways to get creative. What if a ticket-sales guy went out to season-ticket holders and you can upload a photo and we can put your image in the stands? We're trying to come up with a bunch of cool ideas that may work."

Other companies also are tailoring products to help with social distancing and crowd control.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, already has cashless systems in place for merchandise and concessions. Several professional teams are in talks with motion analytics company inside, whose SafeDistance system uses lasers to map spaces and measure crowd density. At KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York, a company called WaitTime utilizes an app to tell Sabres fans how long lines are at restrooms and concessions.

"We have a great opportunity to rewrite the new normal for the return of sports," WaitTime founder Zack Klima said.

It all sounds a bit Orwellian -- like Big Brother is very much watching. And such systems do dance a fine line between informative and intrusive. But they also could help mitigate the spread of a virus, and that could make the difference between having Michigan Stadium empty on a fall Saturday or having 100,000 fans rooting on the Wolverines again.

Not everything will be as overt as barren concourses and empty seats, either. Most of the changes that colleges and teams are implementing will go unnoticed by those who settle in for the kickoff or first pitch.

Premier League club Tottenham recently opened its new London stadium after spending millions to create more than 1,600 WiFi access points and 700 Bluetooth beacons, ensuring fans are able to utilize crowd-density apps and other technology. Many facilities are upgrading heating, cooling and ventilation systems to scrub air as it circulates through their buildings, while others are toying with the use of QR codes to monitor the health of their patrons.

"We're extrapolating off these trends that have already existed, and I think we're going to kick-start into 2025 even though it's only 2020," said Jason Jennings, director of strategy and digital integration for the sports and entertainment group at Mortenson, which is wrapping construction on the Raiders' new $2.4 billion stadium in Las Vegas. "The technology is going to be deployed much faster because of the value it has for the fan experience and public health."

Even the way facilities are cleaned will change. No longer will hosing down seats and sweeping up trash left by fans be enough. Venue giant ASM Global recently announced a new hygiene protocol for its 325 facilities worldwide, noting the importance of hewing to international health recommendations from the likes of the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

Few professional teams have been willing to divulge their reopening strategies, whether that be potential seating layouts or infrastructure upgrades. The rapidly changing social and political environment coupled with the unpredictable nature of the virus have made planning difficult. But the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium recently committed to being the first public facility to receive a STAR rating from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, which involves completing a rigorous program to help provide what Dolphins chief executive Tom Garfinkel "the safest environment possible."

Of course, even that might not be enough. While much remains unknown about the novel coronavirus, one fact that is painfully clear is how easily it spreads. No league or team wants their games to become a "super spreader" event, and everyone acknowledges all the preparations in the world cannot guarantee safety.

"In large masses, there is no system that can effectively prevent another person from giving germs to a second individual," said Philip Tierno, clinical professor of pathology at New York University's Grossman School of Medicine. "If they sneeze or cough or talk directly, or even breathe directly on a person, there is no system that can prevent that."

That hasn't stopped sports facilities from spending millions of dollars during the months-long shutdown to minimize the risk. Giving fans some measure of confidence is an investment in the bottom line.

"We will get back to stadiums and watching football, basketball, baseball, etcetera, there is no question," said Ryan Demmer, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health. "But it's going to take a little bit of time to do it safely. And that's going to take a little bit of innovation to do it safely in the short-term."

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