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Kirk Cousins on leadership: 'There’s a side of me that people don’t understand'

Kirk Cousins on leadership: 'There’s a side of me that people don’t understand'

Watch practice each day at Redskins Park and Kirk Cousins emerges as a fiery, vocal, even combattive at times, leader and quarterback. Watch Redskins games on Sundays, and rarely does the same version of Cousins appear. 

At times it does, often when cameras are rolling. Few moments encapsulate Cousins' passionate side like his comments to Scot McCloughan after the Redskins convincingly beat the Packers.

Kirk Cousins to Scot McCloughan: 'How you like me now?!'

Kirk Cousins. Feelin' it. #HowYouLikeMeNow

Posted by NBC Sports Washington on Monday, November 21, 2016

Cousins addressed trying to get the 'How do you like me now?' player into every game, and from the opening kick, in an interview with ESPN980's Inside the Locker Room (listen here).

I need to be more of that guy. I think from the day I entered the league, I’ve tried to be a little more buttoned down, a little more careful to not stick my foot in my mouth, and I think I need to let myself come out. The guy that the teammates see at practice and at OTAs, the guy that the teammates see in the locker room, from behind closed doors. I think people need to see that, like you said, from the kickoff. As I get a little more experienced in this league, I think it will come naturally, but I think I need to make a more concerted effort to make that happen. I think if I do, I think it will help.

Obviously the biggest question facing Cousins this offseason remains his contract status. Set for free agency at the end of the month, Cousins can stay with the Redskins by signing a new long-term deal or again playing under the franchise tag, like he did in 2016. It seems highly unlikely Cousins actually hits free agency, and team officials sound somewhat optimistic of a new multi-year deal for their quarterback.

In an honest moment, Cousins said he believes he can be a better leader with a multi-year contract.

That is the benefit to the long-term deal. It’s okay, I’m the guy. I’ve got full freedom to lead, full freedom to just be the guy, to make this mine, and to get that permission, if you will. That’s where I think the leash comes off and you’re able to fully go, and I’m excited for that day to come, whether it comes this year or down the road. I can’t wait.

The tune hasn't changed from Cousins about the franchise tag.

He said that if the organization chooses to franchise him, again, he views it as being wanted. Since being named the starting QB in 2015, Cousins has repeatedly said he feels that each week he is proving himself, and that feeling hasn't changed. In fact, he said even if he got a long-term contract, he would still feel like it's a year to year situation. 

ESPN980 broadcasters Brian Mitchell and Doc Walker did a nice job with the interview, prodding Cousins about leadership in a way that befits former players. Perhaps the most interesting comment from the quarterback came about how he can improve. Cousins thought back to a November win over the Vikings.

In that game, Cousins sprinted downfield after an official when he thought a pass interference call should have been made. The scene wasn't a surprise to many who had seen similar histrionics from Cousins on the practice fields in Ashburn, but for thousands of fans, it was a big surprise.

There’s a side of me that people don’t understand. I remember in the Vikings game, when I reacted to what I thought was a pass interference and was all emotional about it I got a lot of questions after, 'Why so much emotion?' I thought to myself, well, that’s who I am. That’s how I would normally react. I think what I’ve shown for years now really isn’t me, partly because there’s so much on my mind and so much I’m trying to do that I try not to get distracted by anything. But when I’m rolling and I’m feeling good, that’s the Kirk that comes out.

Redskins fans would like to see a lot more of the 'rolling and feeling good' Kirk. In the two games against the Vikings and Packers, both emotional showings from Cousins, the 'Skins went 2-0. The QB passed for more than 600 yards and five touchdowns with an average QB rating of 128.35. 

Cousins believes a long-term deal will help him be more comfortable, and it's fairly obvious job security helps any employee. Granted it's a small sample, but the numbers seem to back up Cousins' assertion.

Perhaps Redskins brass should take notice. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Josh Norman and D.J. Swearinger swing between silent and opinionated following Redskins' fourth consecutive loss

Josh Norman and D.J. Swearinger swing between silent and opinionated following Redskins' fourth consecutive loss

FEDEX FIELD -- The New York Giants didn’t just clobber the Washington Redskins 40-16. They briefly silenced Josh Norman and D.J. Swearinger. 

The talkative defensive backs separately passed on answering questions in the postgame locker room, a combination of events as rare as Washington trailing by 40 points at home. 

They didn't remain quiet for long. Stinging opinions eventually followed on what went down during their most lopsided setbacks in recent memory, and the Redskins’ four-game losing streak.

Both declined to comment to similar questions about the Redskins’ readiness entering a pivotal late-season contest.

In response to a query over whether he felt the team was ready to go at kickoff, Norman offered a “No comment."

The first question to Swearinger, a frequent critic of the team’s practice habits during his two seasons with the team, focused on comments moments earlier from his head coach. During his press conference, Jay Gruden said Sunday’s result was not indicative of the team’s week of practice.

After brief and silent contemplation, Swearinger answered, “No comment.”

Two of the league's greatest quotes passing on answering questions. The universe now officially makes no sense. 

The situation didn’t silence all of their takes.

The second question to Swearinger involved what’s gone wrong for the defense in recent weeks after a strong start to the season. "We just didn't execute. We just didn’t execute. We didn't get the job done. That's the answer they want me to give."

Norman, on what went wrong in the game: “Everything.”

Swearinger, on what changes are needed defensively. “I’ve been saying that for two years, man. Obviously, they didn’t listen. I can’t tell you what needs to change. I’m not the coach.”

Norman, on where he thought the game went off the rails: “You saw the game,” he responded.

Swearinger on whether he felt the game slip away in the first quarter when New York opened the scoring with an interception return for a touchdown: “Somewhat, somewhat, somewhat, but as a defender, you have to try to stop them, and we didn’t do a good job.”

Both players were part of a defense that surrendered three touchdown passes in the loss. Norman was also asked about the team’s mindset following the defeat. “We got took behind the barn like my grandma would do,” Norman said. “Had one of those big, thick paddles and got put to the backside pretty good.”

It’s understandable that the current slide, one that dropped Washington from 6-3 and a two-game lead in the NFC East to a losing record four weeks later, left the defensive leaders flummoxed.   

Washington’s run defense ranked among the league’s best through seven weeks, allowing an average of 70.7 yards on the ground. Only two opponents topped 100 yards in a single game. Over the next six games, the Redskins allowed each team to reach the century mark for an average of 150 rush yards.

“Can’t say it’s the players,” Swearinger said on the topic of the plummeting run defense. “We’re the same players. We’re the same guys. We’ve put in the same work. We’re practicing hard. I’m speaking for my (fellow defensive) players. We’re practicing hard. … I can’t give you no answers to that because I’m not the coach, but I know we’re trying to do what we need to do on defense as players. We’re trying. We’re trying hard.”

Through the frustration, both proud players passed on declaring the season over despite the dire projections with three games remaining and the losses piling up.

Josh Johnson, signed by the Redskins Wednesday, played in the second half Sunday and will start next week at Jacksonville. The Redskins then face Tennessee before a Week 17 home finale against Philadelphia. They likely must win all three games for any hopes of a playoff berth.

Swearinger admitted it’s not easy remaining positive, but he had no intention of flipping to the dark side.

“I’m going to keep grinding,” Swearinger said. “I’m blessed to play football. I’m blessed to be a Washington Redskin. I’m going to approach this thing like a pro. Positive attitude, Get ready to beat Jacksonville if we can.”

Staying mentally positive is one thing. Flipping the momentum that way is quite another.

“Hell I don’t know,” Norman said. “Come to work Monday and find out. It sucks. Trying to keep my emotions intact. I really am.”

Like Swearinger, Norman has no intention of folding with games remaining.

“We fight. We’re warriors. We go out there, and we try to win, try to put ourselves in position to be successful,” Norman said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t work out in our favor. That’s the cards we’ve been dealt right now. Got to play it and hopefully, we’ll catch a full house one of these times.”

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What's the state of the Redskins locker room? DeAngelo Hall not sure if it's 'lost'

What's the state of the Redskins locker room? DeAngelo Hall not sure if it's 'lost'

The Redskins were thoroughly embarrassed in a 40-16 loss to the Giants on Sunday - a game that looked worse for most of it than the final score shows. So is it over? Is the locker room lost? Former Redskins player DeAngelo Hall spoke about that possibility on NBC Sports Washington's Redskins Postgame Live. 

"I don't want to say the locker room's lost," Hall said, "but having played in this league when you know you have a guy at quarterback in Mark Sanchez who is going out there to lead you and you know there's other guys available you probably could have had a chance to get.

And you go with that guy, you basically say huh, here you go. 

Some guys look at that like 'oh man we ain't got a chance in hell, why am I out here? And then some guys don't care what's going on. We used to get turnovers, three and out every other series, who cares? Let's go. Let's go fight. It's a mindset."

Redskins coach Jay Gruden told reporters after the game he didn't think his team quit.

And as for quarterback help, this might not be exactly what Hall was talking about, but they will get Josh Johnson as the starter next week according to Gruden.

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