Redskins

Vikings lead NFL with 5 players from Notre Dame

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Vikings lead NFL with 5 players from Notre Dame

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Notre Dame is one of the few college football teams that truly can boast a national following.

Why, there's even an alumni chapter in the Minnesota Vikings locker room.

``It's really fun to be able to talk trash to everybody,'' said center John Sullivan, who has a leprechaun tattoo on his left shoulder.

Sullivan is one of five ex-Notre Dame players on the Vikings, the most of any NFL team. There are currently 26 former Fighting Irish on active rosters around the league, and the next-closest team is Indianapolis with three, according to STATS LLC.

So not only do Notre Dame alumni make up nearly 10 percent of Minnesota's roster but the Vikings have almost 20 percent of the NFL's, well, Irish heritage. After drafting Sullivan in the sixth round in 2008, they took tight end Kyle Rudolph in the second round in 2011. This year, they selected safety Harrison Smith in the first round and safety Robert Blanton in the fifth round. They also signed tight end John Carlson, a second-round pick by Seattle in 2008, as a free agent.

With the Fighting Irish undefeated and set to play Alabama for the BCS championship on Jan. 7, there's no doubt which school colors have been the brightest around the Vikings this season. Bragging rights were clear after Notre Dame beat Stanford (running back Toby Gerhart), Oklahoma (running back Adrian Peterson and right tackle Phil Loadholt) and of course rival USC (left tackle Matt Kalil, defensive end Everson Griffen and tight end Rhett Ellison).

``We're always coming in here after their games saying, `We told you so.' So far it's been a good year,'' Smith said.

They've even roughed out a plan to fly to Miami for the big game, as long as a potential practice - should the Vikings make the playoffs - doesn't interfere.

Regular season games are typically tough to watch, with Saturday afternoon travel on weeks with road games or meetings in the hotel at night. But Blanton and Smith tried to watch together when the Vikings were on the road and Notre Dame had a prime-time kickoff. Sullivan chartered a flight with Rudolph and Loadholt to watch the game at Oklahoma on Oct. 27, a weekend the Vikings had off.

``Afterward, Phil came up to us and said, `You guys just physically dominated the game,''' Rudolph recalled. ``It's been a long time since Notre Dame's gone on the road to a top-10 team and just dominated the game.''

That's true. None of these five teammates lost fewer than three times in any season they were at Notre Dame. Some years, they didn't even play in a bowl game.

Jealousy of the current team isn't part of their mindset, though.

``Pretty proud of those guys,'' Blanton said.

Just as proud of the traditionally strict academic standards, as they all noted, as the success on the field.

``They follow the rules there. It's one of those places where you don't get away with stuff. They expect you to go to class. They make sure everyone graduates,'' said Carlson, who met his wife, Danielle, at Notre Dame.

The Vikings didn't exactly make a conscious effort to create such a high concentration of former Fighting Irish.

``I think it was more coincidence because we're always going to stack our draft board according to a player's ability, and our rating system is building on upside and potential,'' general manager Rick Spielman said. ``I don't know that we've honed in, just because they go to a Notre Dame or a USC or an Ohio State or something like that.''

The Vikings, though, have shaped their roster philosophy around a stated desire for tough, smart, passionate players, attributes that Notre Dame products often possess, even during some of the down years they've had in the last decade.

``Clearly there's something about that school that our front office and the people making our personnel decisions like, but at the same time it really comes down to a case by case basis,'' Sullivan said. ``You can find great people from a whole lot of schools. I think we've got a lot of great people here. That can come from the whole spectrum of college football.''

Only the Notre Dame guys will be able to cheer for their team in the national championship game next month, however. The Vikings don't have any Alabama players on the roster now.

``We have to make sure that while we're on top,'' Rudolph said, ``we let everyone else know.''

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AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report.

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Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

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Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

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Associated Press

Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

The sudden resignation of Barry Trotz as the coach of the Stanley Cup champion Capitals is the most stunning Washington coaching departure since Joe Gibbs retired from the Redskins on about 13 months after the team won its third Super Bowl in a 10-year span. 

In the years leading up to Gibbs’ departure, there were some rumblings that he might leave. As early as 1986, John Madden said that Gibbs was a candidate to burn out of the profession early. During the 1989 season, Gibbs said that he was contemplating retirement, but he retracted his words the next day. In 1990, columnist and TV pregame panelist Will McDonough reported that Gibbs would retire after the season. Retirement rumors popped up again in early 1992, just two days before Super Bowl XXVI. Again, Gibbs denied them. The Redskins easily beat the Bills to claim their third championship in 10 years and there was no apparent reason why such a successful coach would think about leaving. 

Redskins fans had become so used hearing the Gibbs retirement reports that many just started to tune them out. So on the morning of March 5, 1993, when reports of Gibbs’ resignation as coach started to circulate, many were in a state of denial 

That turned out to be wishful thinking. The fans were given a hard jolt of reality when the team announced a noon press conference. 

There the coach was on TV, as promised, confirming the news. He said it was a family decision. 

“Every year, we get away and talk about it,” he said. “We always reach the same conclusion. This year, it was different. The boys didn’t encourage me one way or another, but they understood when I told them what I was thinking. I think Pat’s happier than anyone. This isn’t an easy lifestyle for a coach’s wife. The coach is the guy who stands up and hears everyone tell him how great he is. The wife is the one waiting at home alone while the coach is spending every night at the office. 

“I wanted more time with my family. I wanted more time with my sons. I look at this as a window of opportunity with them and I couldn’t let it pass.” 

Although he has been diagnosed with a condition that has caused some pain and some difficulty in sleeping, Gibbs said that health was not a factor in his decision. 

Richie Petitbon, the team’s longtime defensive coordinator, was named the team’s new head coach. It had to be one of the shortest job interviews ever. 

“I get a call from Mr. Cooke who tells me Joe has retired and that he wants me to coach the Redskins,” Petitbon said. “After I picked myself up off the floor, I said yes.” 

After hearing the news, most Redskins fans had to pick themselves up as well.  

Petitbon lasted only one season as the head coach and the other eight head coaches who followed, including Gibbs himself in a four-year second stint, have been unable to get the Redskins back to the Super Bowl. Coincidentally, the Caps’ head coaching job is widely expected to go do Todd Reirden, who was Trotz’s top assistant just as Pettitbon was Gibbs’. 

Washington fans hope that the Caps have better fortune with Trotz’s successors. 

More Redskins

- 53-man roster: Roster projection--Offense
- 53-man roster: Best players 25 or younger

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

 

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 19, 37 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on defense; the offense was posted yesterday.

Defensive line (7)
Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Stacy McGee, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood

I don’t think that McGee’s groin injury will be an issue, but it seemed that Jay Gruden was very tight-lipped about the whole thing, so we will have to wait until training camp starts. This is one more than they normally carry here and Hood’s presence on the roster could be in danger if injuries force the team to carry more players at another position. 

Outside linebacker (4)
Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee

Anderson is certain to make the roster, but he was mostly invisible during the offseason practices that were open to the media. The spotlight will be on last year’s second-round pick in training camp. After a zero-sack rookie season, Anderson will be under pressure to produce this season. 

Inside linebacker (5)
Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaun Dion Hamilton

The player I have on the wrong side of the bubble here is Martrell Spaight. If he does work his way on, the spot most in jeopardy is Vigil’s. Harvey-Clemons got a lot of reps with the first team in OTAs and the team thinks he can help in nickel situations and perhaps more. And Gruden called Hamilton a potential future starter. So the two younger players seem safe, leaving Vigil vulnerable.

Cornerback (6)
Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Josh Holsey, Greg Stroman

As is the case with the running backs that I looked at yesterday, this group seems to be pretty well set. It’s not that it’s an exceptionally strong group, but there isn’t a lot of real competition. Behind these six are three undrafted free agents, and while Danny Johnson, Kenny Ladler, and Ranthony Texada all have had flashes in the offseason practices, they are extreme long shots to make the roster at this point. 

Safety (4)
D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke

If there are concerns about Nicholson’s health—to be clear, as of now there are none—Fish Smithson could make it as a fifth safety. 

Specialists (3)
K Dustin Hopkins, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg

It looks like the Redskins will have the same trio of specialists for the fourth straight year. I will look it up at some point but for now, I’ll say that it’s been a while since they had such stability here. 


Defensive players: 26
Rookies (5): 
Payne, Settle, Hamilton, Stroman, Apke
New to the Redskins in 2018 (7): Rookies plus McPhee, Scandrick
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (13): Rookies plus new players plus Vigil (released in the final cut, re-signed later in the season). 

On the 53-man roster:

24 offense, 26 defense, 3 specialists
Rookies: 8
New to the Redskins in 2017: 12
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster: 16

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 37
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 51
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 74

The Redskins last played a game 170 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 82 days. 

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