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Just Shut Up

Just Shut Up

Sometimes what is written here results in great acclaim for the author. Other times the comments are a mix of applause and contempt. The reader reaction to the entry about the Redskins’ limiting of public and press access to training camp practices, though, was something entirely different. I was told, in a variety of ways, and by almost everyone who commented, to shut up about it.

I do plead guilty one of the charges leveled at me by some readers, that I was “selfish” in requesting that Joe Gibbs open more camp time to observation. That is certainly true. The amount of time that the public and press can watch the Houston Texans’ camp practices is of zero interest here and there couldn’t any less interest in how John Gruden chooses to operate access to the Bucs’ camp. I only care about how much I can watch the Redskins’ camp because that affects me and people I know and converse with.

However, there were a few things mentioned about the concept of having fans at camp sessions or not that I thought were off base and I want to comment on them here.

First, there were some comments that the presence of a lot of fans and reporters during camp sessions will distract the team. First of all, it didn’t seem to prevent Gibbs’ teams from focusing enough on practice when they were winning three Super Bowls in ten years. And if you can’t focus in front of a few thousand friendly fans, most of whom are just conversing among themselves while trying to catch a glimpse of what’s happening out there, what’s going to happen on September 19 in front of some 60,000 hostile folks in Dallas who will be trying like crazy to distract you? Trust me, if you can’t block out the training camp crowd, you can’t even block out the friendly home crowd much less a fiercely hostile throng on the road.

Others expressed fears that writers, or fans, or scouts from other teams will reveal secret strategies that the team will be working on during camp. These fears are unfounded. Scouts from other teams are prohibited from going to training camp unless, as the Redskins did a few years ago, the team charges admission. Fans can’t see much. And if someone can find a single instance of a writer revealing a specific strategy that he unearthed while observing Redskins camp practices, before, during, or since Gibbs I, please cite that instance for me, because it will be the first one I’ve ever heard about. Remember, Gibbs always said that he changed about 40 percent of his offense from year to year, so it wasn’t like there wasn’t a lot of new material to be installed every year.

Another line of thinking was that if it leads to more wins, it was the right way to go. That’s would be great if it were that easy. If closing camp practices equals more wins, then why not close all of them? Why not hold them in North Dakota or someplace where only the most sophisticated satellite surveillance could see what’s going on. I’ve beaten the theme of Gibbs’ previous tenure to death here, so let’s skip over that easy one. Look around the league and you’ll find no correlation—zero—between the number of closed camp practices and the number of games a team wins. It’s just nonsense.

That leads in to another chorus of folks who said that if that’s what Joe Gibbs wanted then that’s all they need to know, it was fine with them. Now, anyone who has read what’s been written in this space more than once or twice knows that I am not one who is quick to be critical of the Hall of Fame coach. If anything, I’ve drawn heat for agreeing with his actions too often. I just think that in this particular case Gibbs is doing the team and its fans a disservice and perhaps he wasn’t looking at the whole picture when he decided to have so little of camp open to the press and public.

In what way is Gibbs doing them a disservice? Other than in the ways that I discussed on my original blog, training camp is the only chance that many—make that the vast majority of—Redskins fans have to see their team in person. With preseason tickets now being part of the season ticket package there is no opportunity to see them there. Training camp is the only opportunity.

And this leads to the point about the harm being done to the team. Maybe the Redskins don’t think that they need to attract and keep new fans, but they do. There is constant competition for the dollars and attention of the sports fan everywhere and Washington is no exception. The team has been hit from the south by the Carolina Panthers and from the north by the Baltimore Ravens and internally by the Nationals and Wizards. Many a casual fan has been turned into a lifer with an autograph and a smile from a Redskin player at camp and the loyalties of many impressionable kids have been sealed for life as well with the same.

One of the few readers who tended to agree with my position was a poster on the WarpathInsiders.com board who goes by Tennessee Carl. He summed it up better than I could:
When I was up at Carlisle, there were little ol' couples who'd been to camp with the Redskins since the 1960s. It was their vacation. How do you measure that sort of loyalty in your fan base? And don't you lose something when you close that door?

As I said earlier, give us Ws and nobody will care much. But we aren't winning. So when the franchise goes into seclusion and comes out with another crappy product on the field, it just breeds more fan alienation.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, has more respect for Joe Gibbs than I do. I just respectfully disagree with his stance here. And if I told him my opinion it’s very likely that he, just like most of the readers here, would tell me to just shut up.

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Need to Know: Redskins stock up-stock down during vs. Panthers

Need to Know: Redskins stock up-stock down during vs. Panthers

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, October 15, six days before the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys.

Talking points

Here are the players who saw their stock go up against the Panthers on Sunday and others who saw their stocks drop. 

Stock up—A few days ago, CB Josh Norman was a penny stock. He had mixed up assignments in the blowout loss to the Saints and take a ton of criticism after the game, much of it warranted. During the Panthers game, he was a blue chip. Norman got his first interception in 20 games and he forced a fumble. There is still a lot of season to be played but for now, at least it’s good to be Josh Norman.

Stock down—They won the game and that’s the quarterback’s main job. But for the second straight game, Alex Smith did not play up to his $18.4 million cap number. He passed for 163 yards. At times you really wondered where he was throwing the ball and/or to whom he was throwing it. They were able to win thanks to Adrian Peterson’s rushing and three takeaways. To Smith’s credit, he protected the ball well and it should be noted he was without favorite targets, Chris Thompson and Jamison Crowder. Regardless, it was not a sharp performance by Smith. 

Stock upPeterson came into the game with an injured ankle, knee, and shoulder. Not only did he fight through the pain, he thrived. Six days after he rushed for just six yards against the Saints and sat out most of the second half, he picked up 97 yards on 17 carries, an average of 5.7 yards per carry. Peterson did rip off a 19-yard run but mostly it was three yards here, six yards there. It was what the Redskins were expecting when the signed him. 

Stock down—With Thompson out, Kapri Bibbs had his big chance to show what he can do. He didn’t do much. Bibbs, who was promoted from the practice squad earlier this season, picked up 11 yards rushing on two carries and he caught one pass for six yards. There were some high hopes for Bibbs among Redskins fans. For today, he didn’t live up to them. 

Stock up—I know that Daron Payne didn’t make a ton of plays and his streak of games with at least one sack ended at two. But he was part of a defensive front that held Christian McCaffrey, who came into the game averaging 82.3 rushing yards per game (fourth in the NFL) and 5.2 yards per attempt, to 20 yards on eight attempts, a 2.5 per carry average. And he made a remarkable play, which is becoming routine for him, when he made the tackle on a tight end who had taken a screen pass well outside of the numbers. He’s a special talent and his stock will continue to rise. 

The agenda

Today: Open locker room 11:30; Jay Gruden press conference 3:00 

Upcoming: Cowboys @ Redskins 6; Redskins @ Giants 13; Redskins @ Eagles 49

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What Adrian Peterson did on Sunday really is absurd

What Adrian Peterson did on Sunday really is absurd

FEDEX FIELD -- Coming into Sunday's game, the Redskins listed Adrian Peterson as questionable for the game against the Panthers. 

And why wouldn't they?

The future Hall of Famer separated his shoulder last week in a loss to the Saints. In that same game, he got blasted in the knee on a play that many thought would cost Peterson the season. And before the Redskins bye, in a 120-yard effort in a win over the Packers, Peterson took a helmet directly off his ankle. 

Calling AP banged up for the Panthers game is unfair to banged up players. 

Peterson was hurt, from top to bottom. 

Yet, despite the injuries, he still went out and rushed for 97 yards on 17 carries, good for a 5.7 yards-per-carry average. 

"I had already made up in my mind Friday, 'Hey, I'm going to give it a go,' and I know it's going to be painful but it's mind over matter and keep pressing," Peterson said following the 23-17 Redskins win. 

"So that's what I ended up doing."

In a remarkable endeavor, Peterson was the most consistent player on the offense. Alex Smith played fine but not necessarily good.

The Redskins offense needs more from Smith, but couldn't even ask for anything else from Peterson. 

"I can't say enough about what he did today, playing through the pain of the shoulder and the knee," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said of Peterson. "What a pro. What a pro he is."

In the second half, when the Redskins pass game really fell apart, Washington leaned on Peterson even more. It wasn't pretty, but the team got enough to eat up possession and pad the lead with field goals. 

"Adrian Peterson ran hard," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. "I think he created the opportunity for them down the stretch to control the clock a little bit."

Rivera is right. 

Without Peterson, the Redskins probably don't win on Sunday. 

And it's even more remarkable that none of this was supposed to happen. The Redskins seemed reluctant to even give Peterson a tryout after rookie Derrius Guice went down in the preseason. Guice was the plan, and Peterson wasn't even really the backup.

Back then, Gruden explained that Peterson was simply too impressive in his August workout for the team to do anything but sign him to the active roster. 

Now, five games into the season, averaging well more than 4 yards-per-carry and on pace to lead the Redskins in rush yards, it's hard to imagine what Washington's offense would look like without Peterson. 

Sure, he's 33-years-old, but he's also the Redskins most consistent offensive threat. 

Asked what surprised him during his team's loss, Rivera inadvertently summed up the Peterson experience.

"I don't think there was anything surprising. They're a good football team. They run the ball extremely well with Adrian."

Rivera is right.

The Redskins run the ball extremely well with Peterson.

Even with the separated shoulder, the busted knee, the bruised ankle. On Sunday, the Redskins ran the ball extremely well with Peterson.

And that says a lot about Adrian Peterson. 

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