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Redskins still learning what they've got in Bill Callahan


Redskins still learning what they've got in Bill Callahan

This offseason the Redskins made a move to strengthen their offensive line, though it had nothing to do with the draft or free agency. Washington poached Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan, offering big money for an assistant coach, and in turn, brought in an experienced and well-respected position coach that should have a big role in the 2015 offense.

Bringing in Callahan is not a typical assistant coach hire, however, as he has significant previous head coaching experience, including taking the Raiders to the Super Bowl in 2002. His experience as the boss, both in Oakland and at the University of Nebraska, means Callahan will be demanding, and the players are starting to notice.

"He's a super intense guy, super thorough," Redskins center Kory Lichtensteiger said after an offseason workout. 

"There's a lot of little differences that we have to be very specific on each play. Getting our call right, getting the right IDs," Lichtensteiger explained.


Thorough and intense are not words many would use to describe the Redskins recent offensive line play. While former coach Mike Shanahan built a team adept at run blocking, the team's big guys were hardly as effective as pass blockers, causing Washington quarterbacks to take hits and sacks at unsustainable rates. And as Robert Griffin III's ability to run waned, the offensive line play truly began to suffer, including the run game. 

"He’s a very demanding coach but it’s something that we need and his presence is being felt already in a positive way," head coach Jay Gruden said. 

'Skins GM Scot McCloughan invested in the offensive line heavily at the draft, taking Brandon Scherff in the first round and Arie Kouandjio in the fourth. The team is clearly looking to improve in that area, and veteran guard Chris Chester was released this week. If nothing else, the personnel will be different.

Different players could help, but there have also been suggestions that the scheme may change to go with more power running. Not so, according to Lichtensteiger.

"We're going to stick with the wide zone as our bread and butter, but I think [Callahan is] going to introduce probably some gap stuff that will be a little different. I don't know how much we will rely on that. I think the wide zone is probably still what we're going to stick with most of all."

Interesting thoughts from the center, a smart player that the line relies on to make calls and protection adjustments. Callahan comes from Dallas, which had the best run game in the NFL last season, but also had an elite offensive line stocked full of first and second round picks and running back DeMarco Murray.

In Washington, Alfred Morris has shown Pro Bowl talent, though his numbers have declined each season since his 1,600 yard rookie year in 2012. That season, when Washington went on a seven game win streak to take the NFC East title, also was RG3's first season.

For Washington, it all comes back to RG3 and 2012. That season, Griffin was as dynamic a run threat as the NFL had ever seen at quarterback, and his legs opened up the offense for Morris and everyone else. The 2015 version of Griffin is a different player, and the offense needs to evolve similarly. Can Callahan help that evolution?

"He’s been awesome and we look forward to winning with him," Griffin said of Callahan.

If the Redskins are to win in 2015, and after winning just seven games in two seasons what constitutes "winning" is debatable, the offensive line must play at a higher level. Callahan will be a big part of that, should it happen.

It won't be for lack of effort. Callahan and his linemen stayed on the field for an extended period of time after OTAs last week; young players working on technique and veterans working on new terminology.  

"He shows a great deal of confidence and a great wisdom amongst his players and expects a lot out of them, works the heck out of them," Gruden said. "That’s what I like about him. I like that he’s taken every ounce of energy they’ve got out there."

The schemes may still look similar, but Callahan and Gruden will expect different results this fall. It won't be for lack of effort or intensity. 

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Reuben Foster's season-ending injury hurts the Redskins from a contract perspective, too

Reuben Foster's season-ending injury hurts the Redskins from a contract perspective, too

There are a lot of questions stemming from Reuben Foster's injury at Redskins OTAs, which looks to be a season-ending one.

Where does Foster, whose career has really yet to take off due to other injuries as well as numerous off-field troubles, go from here? What are Washington's options at inside linebacker now, since they were counting on him to produce?

And then there's this: How does Foster missing this year affect his contract with the 'Skins?

The answer, according to salary cap expert J.I. Halsell, is not much.

"When a contract tolls, that means basically the pause button is pushed and whatever you were supposed to make in 2019 carries over to 2020. That's not the case for Reuben Foster," Halsell said Tuesday while on the Redskins Talk podcast.

"Reuben Foster will earn his $1.29 million salary regardless of if he plays this season or not. While he'll probably spend his entire season on injured reserve, he'll make his $1.29 million in 2019."

Essentially, everything proceeds as normal. And that in and of itself is a decent setback for the organization.

One of the reasons the Redskins dealt with the controversy and backlash when they claimed Foster last November was because they were adding a first-round talent on his rookie contract. The team was hoping they could secure two years of elite play out of him at a bargain price, and then potentially exercise the fifth-year option on him to keep him in D.C. through 2021.

Now, however, they're losing one of those precious seasons and will have to make that decision on his fifth-year option next offseason without any tape or experience to really base that decision on. That's an important choice, and one that will carry significant financial implications as well.

"The fifth-year option for the 2021 season will be pretty expensive," Halsell said. "The long and short of it is it's going to be a lucrative dollar amount and given his injury history, his current injury, you would think that when they have to make that decision by the 2020 Draft, they will decline that option."

Haslell's right. The likelihood of the Burgundy and Gold committing big money to a guy with literally one rep in their uniform — and it's not like he was proven for the 49ers, as a linebacker or as a person, either — feels unbelievably slim. 

Yet — and now we're looking pretty far down the line — if he is able to return from this injury and contribute in 2020, the franchise could still look to keep him beyond that. There's a ton of time between now and then, but it's certainly possible.

"Theoretically, even though you don't have the fifth-year option for 2021, you can work on a contract extension for Reuben Foster assuming he comes back to full health," Haslell explained.

Still, not only does the injury hurt the player as well as the unit the player was going to start on, but it limits the team's potential payoff from claiming the player. The situation, from every angle, is an unfortunate one. 


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NFL revamping players' pain management and prevention programs

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."