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Redskins practice report: Cravens lines up at both safety spots

Redskins practice report: Cravens lines up at both safety spots

Some observations from the Redskins OTA practice on Wednesday:

Jordan Reed and Trent Williams were still out although both are expected to be back for next week’s mandatory minicamp. Matt Jones also was absent.

—Reed’s absence let Niles Paul get some first-team reps that he might not otherwise have taken. Paul is looking good after missing all but eight games of the past two season with injuries. He will have to fight for a job after the team drafted Jeremy Sprinkle in April.

—With Williams training elsewhere, Ty Nsekhe got most of the first-team snaps at left tackle with Vinston Painter getting a few of them.

—While which units various players line up with gets discussed on a regular basis, be careful not to put too much into it at this time. Today, WR Ryan Grant got a lot of the first-team work while WR Josh Docston mostly lined up with the twos. It won’t be that way in September.

MORE REDSKINS: Who is on the bubble?

—Doctson demonstrated what the coaches mean when they talk about his impressive catch radius. He ran a pattern over the middle and Colt McCoy threw the ball behind him. Doctson reached back and made a juggling catch.

—RB Keith Marshall faces an uphill climb up the depth chart to make the roster but he did flash his speed a couple of times, making his way through some heavy traffic for a nice gain. If he stays healthy (a big if, given his extensive injury history) it could be tough for the coaches to cut him.

Kirk Cousins and Vernon Davis are definitely on the same page. Cousins hit the tight end with a beautiful, long spiral for a TD in the first session of team drills.

Jim Tomsula doesn’t need practice film to see what his players need to do. After the first team session he brought the D-line together on the sideline and went through some of the mistakes that were made, such as problems shedding blocks and dealing with double teams, and showed them the proper technique right then and there.

—We saw the good and the bad McCoy in the space of a couple of plays. He woefully under threw Brian Quick on a deep pass and then a few plays later he hit Quick in stride with a 20-yard laser down the numbers on the left.

—Nobody is immune from mistakes at this time of year. Jamison Crowder, who was targeted 92 times last year and dropped just three passes, dropped an easy one over the middle during team drills. I don’t think it will cost him his roster spot.

RELATED: The Redskins week that was

—At least at this stage, the Redskins are using Su’a Cravens at both safety positions. On the first snap of the final stages of team drills he was lined up as the single high safety. He lined up at strong and blitzed on the next play. A few snaps later he and D. J. Swearinger were both lined up deep.

—The are unlikely to start to seriously sort out kickoff returners until training camp but here goes with the players back to field kickoffs: Bashaud Breeland, Will Blackmon, Maurice Harris, Chris Thompson, and Zach Pascal.

— Reserve offensive lineman Kevin Bowen, who was on the practice squad last year, suffered an ankle injury late in practice and had to be carted off of the field. About 15 player gathered around him as an air cast was put on the ankle.

—Right before that they had an uneven two-minute drill (actually they put 55 seconds on the clock). Cousins’ first pass was batted down at the line and then he got chased to the sideline and had to throw it away. But it ended well for the offense with Cousins throwing a nice strike to Vernon Davis in the end zone from about 35 yards out.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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NFL revamping players' pain management and prevention programs

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USA TODAY Sports Imahes

NFL revamping players' pain management and prevention programs

NEW YORK -- The NFL and the players' union have two new agreements to address player health in the areas of pain management/prescription medications, and behavior well-being.

The joint agreements, announced Monday, are designed to lead to advancement and understanding of dealing with pain and to improve potential treatments. The league and union also will add to programs already established in education, prevention, and overall behavioral health throughout the league.

"I was hired two years ago and when I was hired I was asked about areas of concern," said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's medical chief. "And I said these were two areas I saw from my knowledge of someone taking care of athletes for over two decades. I felt a real need there."

"We've been working together with the players' union to come up with something that would work proactively for both. We have the same goal, to take care of the whole player and in a holistic way, and to focus on prevention."

Among the stipulations in the pain management area will be formation of a committee of medical experts appointed by the league and union that will establish uniform standards for club practices and policies in pain management and the use of prescription medication by players. The committee also will conduct research concerning pain management and alternative therapies.

That committee will receive periodic reports from a newly developed prescription drug monitoring program that will monitor all prescriptions issued to NFL players by club physicians and unaffiliated physicians.

Each NFL club must appoint and pay for a pain management specialist before next season.

All this builds on the programs in place.

"We've had an electronically submitted health record for each club in place for a number of years," Sills said. "Medical providers enter the prescriptions they have given to the players. Periodically, our medical advisory committee and the NFL Physicians Society would issue white paper guidelines around strategies. The important change here is obviously it creates a committee tasked with overseeing our educational efforts -- the best practices around pain management."

All 32 teams now must retain by the start of training camp a behavioral health team clinician focused on supporting players' emotional and mental health and well-being. The old bromide of "toughing it out" when someone has such issues has long been discarded, Sills said.

"This is not novel to the NFL or to sports," Sills added. "It applies across all levels of society at all age groups and walks of life, and we know these are issues we need to address."

While the NFL and NFLPA have had previous joint programs in these health areas, Sills and NFLPA President Eric Winston note these initiatives are a major step forward in medical care.

"These agreements are positive developments for our membership as they will provide new and important resources to help players and their families," Winston said. "Our union has always advocated for advancements in health and safety and we think this work with the NFL is another important step to improve care for NFL players."

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Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

The Redskins might be just in the beginning of a quarterback battle, but at Monday's OTA session, it seemed pretty clear which player would eventually win. 

Dwayne Haskins made a number of impressive throws while he was on the field, and while Case Keenum had his share of good passes too, the rookie shined. Even on the surface: Haskins looks the part of a franchise quarterback, standing 6-foot-3 and 230 lbs. Keenum is listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 lbs, but that seems fairly generous. 

When Haskins throws the ball, it zips through the air. He can go deep and has touch on his underneath routes. Keenum gets the ball where it needs to be, but there's a difference in velocity. 

Let's be crystal clear, however, that one OTA session in May will not determine the starting quarterback job. While Keenum and Haskins are both learning the Redskins offense, Keenum has proved he can stand in the pocket of an NFL game and make plays. Haskins has never seen the size or speed of NFL defensive linemen. 

"It’s a long process and I think they both handled it well today," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "Hopefully we’ll do better tomorrow and the next day and so on and so forth and I’m sure it will be a good, lengthy competition with some great players going at it."

A few, unexpected things stood out with Haskins.

Though he has a long windup on his throws, the ball gets out plenty fast. He also seemed quicker in the pocket than some of his NFL Scouting Combine numbers would suggest. Haskins certainly isn't fast, but he's not a plodder either. That said, Keenum does seem to have the advantage in squirting through the line of scrimmage and keeping plays alive. That's something Gruden really likes in his passers.

Both of the QBs seemed comfortable with their role in the competition. 

"It’s normal. I compete every day whether I’m playing football, playing ping pong, playing golf, I’m competing. I’m competing against myself. I’m competing against the defense. In the quarterback room, we’re always competing," Keenum said. "Competition makes you better and that’s what the spring is about."

Haskins sounded very tactful in his responses; respectful of the veterans already on the team in Keenum and Colt McCoy, yet also eager to get more work.

"I want to be with the best, be around the best, and compete with the best. All season I’ll be around working out with the best quarterbacks on my team," the rookie said. 

Planned or not, Haskins also seemed modest in his goals for the OTA session. 

"I didn’t have any expectations for today, I just wanted to execute. The biggest thing for me was going to play right in the huddle."

That stands out in stark contrast to the Redskins last first-round rookie passer, Robert Griffin III. Expectations for RG3 were out of control, almost immediately, and while parts of his rookie season actually lived up to the hype, that situation was not healthy or sustainable. It's smart for Haskins to set reasonable goals at this stage of his career. Calling plays correctly in the huddle will get him on the field more, and that will give him more chances to make big plays.

It's a learning process, and at OTAs, Haskins showed a willingness to start on the ground floor. In a world of egos and branding, that's a sage move. 

While McCoy was not present on the field at OTAs, he is in Ashburn. He will be a part of this competition, but he needs to get healthy soon. Gruden didn't provide much of an update when asked about McCoy, though the coach did say the quarterback should be back on the field for training camp.

McCoy knows the Redskins offense backward and forward, but without him on the field, Keenum and Haskins are learning the Redskins plays at the same time. And that means while Gruden is looking at a rookie and a veteran, neither player has much of a leg up on his playbook. 

"I think we have to grade them based on production out here every day. Every day is a new grade, every day you see how they’re developing, see how they’re getting better, see if they’re making the same mistakes over and over. But it’s a process, this is the first time Dwyane has had a chance to call plays in a live huddle and go after a live defense and this is the first time Case has had a chance to do that with the Redskins terminology. So, we don’t expect perfection on the day one, but we do expect the guys to know what they’re doing when we go out to the practice field, execute and then continue to get better each and every day."

Get better each day. Compete. That's the cornerstone of success in the NFL, and for the Redskins, how QB1 will find his spot.

"Somebody is going to rise I would think," the coach said. "The cream always rises to the top and we’re hoping that’s the case.”

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