Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at email@example.com.
Entering Postseason, Happy-Go-Lucky Redskins Remain Loose, Upbeat
ASHBURN – The second question came from the fourth row of the auditorium, and after Mike Shanahan scanned the crowd for the reporter holding the microphone, he let go of a relaxed chuckle.
“Coach, we just wanted to know, what did you do for New Year’s?” Robert Griffin III asked, his face among 40 others gathered in the auditorium at Redskins Park.
Shanahan, for his part, didn’t wait to send take a verbal jab back at his rookie quarterback.
“I tried to put a good game plan together,” the Washington Redskins’ head coach said, laughter interrupting his speech. “I didn’t know how healthy you were. It was hard without you calling me.”
Forget the postseason, when most teams are so devoted to success and wound so tight that even the slightest deviation from preparation can forecast gloom.
The Washington Redskins, on the heels of their first postseason appearance in five years, were loose and excitable on Wednesday, even as they prepare to host Seattle at FedEx Field in the NFC Wild Card round on Sunday.
There was perhaps no greater example of that than Griffin, who wrapped up his 16-minute press conference, lingered in a back hallway for a television interview then snuck back in before Shanahan entered on the opposite side.
“You got me by surprise there,” Shanahan said. “‘Who is this guy?’”
Even in the locker room downstairs, after the team wrapped up its two-hour practice, players were their usual jovial selves. Players turned down the stereo in the center of the locker room that typically blares music, but defensive end Stephen Bowen was undeterred, continuing his routine of gyrating shirtless near teammates who tried to answer questions about the Seahawks and the postseason.
“This is the second time I’ve faced them in the playoffs, and I only really know them in the playoffs,” said Kedric Golston, unfazed by Bowen slithering up to his right. “They’re an exciting football team – real aggressive on both sides of the ball, real explosive. You know, they want to run the football and stop the run, so I have a lot of respect for that kind of football.”
The Redskins needed to win their final seven games of the regular season to merely be in contention for the playoffs, which wasn’t guaranteed. They did, and assistance from other teams furthered their pursuit of the postseason.
And as November turned to December, and now into January, the mentality hasn’t changed. One win and you go home, Shanahan continued to tell the players, even as games remained in the regular season.
“You don’t change your preparation,” Griffin said. “For [college] bowl games, most of the time you’re doing way too much thinking trying to devise the perfect play for the perfect defense. Then, you get in the game and they do something totally different because they’re doing the same thing for the past month. I think it’s just like a regular-season game, but with a playoff game atmosphere.”
Shanahan kept the schedule the same as it has been for the last month, holding a practice in mid-day as opposed to the morning and doing so at less than full speed. The team has also eschewed the chill of the three practice fields for the warmth of the bubble, conducting their sessions on artificial turf.
Washington’s last two playoff appearances resulted in losses to the Seahawks, who won their final five games of the season but fell just shy of claiming their second NFC West title in three seasons under head coach Pete Carroll.
Even Carroll said Wednesday there’s no use in changing the weekly routine for the playoffs, given that it’s a signal to the players something has changed.
For the Redskins, nothing has.
“Guys are going to give it their all, no matter what,” Griffin said. “There will be no plays taken off, and we’ll be ready for it.”