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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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Three key takeaways from Kendall Fuller's (second) first media session as a Redskin

Three key takeaways from Kendall Fuller's (second) first media session as a Redskin

Guys like Thomas Davis, Sean Davis and JD McKissic have all gone through their first sessions with the local media this week now that they're officially Redskins. Kendall Fuller had his, too, but because he's coming back to Washington after two years in Kansas City, it was really his second first session with the beat reporters.

So, here are three takeaways from the corner's call on Wednesday, which was a very useful way to catch up with him:

1) He doesn't know yet what his role will be — and that's perfectly fine with him

Fuller was at his best in the slot with the Redskins, but he moved around with the Chiefs, taking snaps on the outside as well as at safety in addition to the action he saw inside. He's essentially as versatile as a tuxedo T-shirt, giving Washington options in terms of what they'll do with him.

As of now, he's still not exactly sure where Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio will ultimately employ him. Regardless, he anticipates making an impact no matter where lines up.

"I'm just excited to show my talent, knowing that I can play anywhere on the field," he told reporters. 

Fuller is clearly the team's highest-profile acquisition of the offseason so far, and his versatility is part of why he was such a priority for the Burgundy and Gold to bring in. Add that quality next to his age — he just recently turned 25 — and it's easy to envision him having those chances to show that talent for quite some time.

2) He, too, is well aware of what the Redskins are building up front

Thomas Davis explained in his time with the media on Tuesday how the likes of Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Ryan Kerrigan, Matt Ioannidis and others made joining the Redskins an enticing thought. A day later, Fuller echoed that thought.

"When you're a DB and you're looking at the front seven, you know how important that is for you and your success," Fuller said.

Of course, the franchise went 3-13 with that same crew just a year ago, but the hope is that they'll fare far better with a scheme switch and improved coaching (and, also, the possible arrival of Chase Young). Fuller believes he stands to greatly benefit from their presence. 

3) Being back home is a giant bonus for him

The Maryland native and former Virginia Tech Hokie identified Ron Rivera's reputation and the group mentioned above as things that convinced him to return to the organization that drafted him. But being back in the area factored into his free agent decision, too, as it's a place he's obviously comfortable in.

In doing so, he let slip that he used to forbid his mom from attending afternoon games to ensure she was at home preparing dinner for him. It sounds like that rule is about to be reinstalled. 

"I had to let her know that she's going to have to start doing that again," he said.

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Three takeaways from Sean Davis' first media session as a Redskin

Three takeaways from Sean Davis' first media session as a Redskin

Like many of the Redskins new free agent signings, safety Sean Davis held an introductory phone call with local media on Wednesday, as any normal press conference will unlikely be happening in the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On the call, Davis answered questions about his role with the Redskins will be, what the free agency process was like, and his excitement to be with the Burgundy and Gold, among other topics.

Here are three major takeaways from his conference call.

1. He's completely healthy.

During the first three seasons of his career, Davis was very durable. The safety missed just one game between 2016-2018 while starting in 40 of them.

But during the Steelers Week 1 loss to the New England Patriots, Davis suffered a shoulder injury, one that cost him the rest of his 2019 season. 

Davis was asked very early on during the conference call how his shoulder is currently feeling, and the safety's answer should please many Redskins fans.

"My shoulder’s good," Davis said. "I passed my physical, so I’m feeling strong, feeling great and I’m ready to get back on the football field. My shoulder is doing good."

It's worth wondering if the Steelers would have tried to Davis, should he had been healthy during the final season of his rookie deal. The Redskins jumped on Davis in free agency, signing him to a one-year contract, essentially a prove-it deal for the safety just hours after the new league year began. Should the 26-year-old have a bounce-back season and stay healthy in 2020, he'll set himself up for a nice payday next year.

2. Davis models his game after the late Sean Taylor.

It was a little ironic that Davis was introduced to the local media on April 1, the same day Sean Taylor was born 37 years ago. Davis, who grew up a Redskins fan in Prince George's County, said Taylor had -- and still has -- a major influence on his game.

"He was probably the biggest influence on my football game," Davis said of Taylor. "I’ve been wearing 21 since high school. I had to wear 28 for Pittsburgh my first two years, but once 21 opened up it was a no-brainer I had to jump on it. He was just an awesome player, a huge role model."

Davis won't sport No. 21 in Washington, as that number has been off-limits since Taylor's tragic death in 2007. While the newest Redskins safety will have to choose another number (No. 28 has also not been worn by any Redskins player since Darrell Green), Davis hopes he can have an impact on the field in a way Taylor once did.

"He was just a beast, he was the best and I’ve tried to emulate my game after him," Davis said. "He instilled fear in the receivers, he was doing everything imaginable, so he was really a freak athlete and I just try to do what I’m supposed to do, but also unleash the inner beast in me and play like Sean Taylor. That’s my goal every week I’m out there, play like Sean."

3. Davis has played multiple positions and sees his versatility as a strength.

Davis, like many of the Redskins free agent signings this offseason, has experience playing multiple positions. In Pittsburgh, Davis played both safety positions -- each for a full season as a starter -- and played a little cornerback, too.

"I have played a lot of positions. I just like being on the field, honestly," Davis said. "I feel like I can play any position you really want me to. As long as I’m on the field, I feel like I’m going to make an impact on defense."

The Redskins expect Davis to play free safety, as Landon Collins will play the strong safety role lining up closer to the line of scrimmage. However, Davis and Collins both have experience playing all over the field, allowing the Burgundy and Gold to get creative with their looks next season.

"I’m just looking forward to being the deep guy, being the one that everyone has to depend on," Davis said on playing free safety.

Since Davis moved from strong safety to free safety in 2018, one aspect of his game he's really focused on is making open-field tackles. He'll likely have plenty of opportunities to make those with the Redskins next season.

"Being the last line of defense, open-field tackling – it’s one of the hardest things in football and it’s one thing that I pride myself on," he said. "Each year, I’ve missed less tackles. I’m just looking forward to improving my game each and every year and the best is yet to come."

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