Somewhere in the middle of Monday afternoon, Austin Howard signed a contract with the Washington Redskins. It had been a whirlwind day for the 6-foot-7, 330-pound offensive tackle that, at the age of 31, has become a bit of a football tramp. In eight years he was again an eagle, raven, hunter, raider, raven and a foal. Now, in a new city, in a new dressing room, with new coaches and new teammates, they handed him an iPad with a new offense and told him to learn it as quickly as possible.
He left the team's practice facility only at 10 o'clock in the morning. The next day, Tuesday, was a bit better. He left at 18.30. But when he released his Redskins jersey and shoulder pads on Wednesday, practicing his first day with the team, he realized that it would be a long night.
"It's part of the process," he said. "We have been grinding here."
On Sunday afternoon, the Redskins lost two-fifths of their attack line when the guards Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff went down with injuries at the end of the season. Considering their star left-tackle, Trent Williams had been out of control for at least two weeks with a dislocated thumb, and Morgan Morgan's hurt pain in his knee had been bad enough in Sunday's loss to Atlanta that he had missed the practice maneuver. Perhaps Washington will need four attacking linemen this weekend in Tampa Bay.
This is how Howard ended up on sixty-five other attacking line guards from free agent in the dressing room of the team, as they waited for a try-out for three suddenly vacant spots on the Redskins squad. By the end of the day, two of them also had the signing 27-year-old guard Luke Bowanko, a Centerville, Va. Native, who had played 39 games with the Jaguars and Ravens, and Jonathan Cooper, another guard, who started 28 with 27 games with the Cardinals, Browns and Cowboys.
"Experienced," Redskins Coach Jay Gruden called them.
This is necessary for a team that may need two or three of them to actually start on Sunday, only six days after their arrival.
At one point every coach had to deal with what Gruden has to do. Buccaneers Coach Dirk Koetter, who plays on Sunday, says it is "the worst nightmare of any coach." Offensive lines are delicate things, despite the big men who play on them. Everyone must be in sync, understand the meaning of each game and work symmetrically while blocking the wall of 300-pound men coming to them. Achieving this balance requires months of work. Adding someone from outside, let alone three, is a burglary that no coach wants.
"You bring a man from the street who does not speak your language and eight weeks, eight races in the season plus preseason plus OTAs were with you, so there's more to the bell than" I Right 32 Power, "" Koetter said. "There are thousands of line calls and different splits and different techniques and different communication you play with, it's not easy."
And yet the Redskins tried to make it easy on Wednesday. Offensive line coaches Bill Callahan and Phil Rauscher spent hours on Monday evening and Tuesday all day trying to stuff as much information as possible into the new players, so they had an idea what to do on Wednesday when the team practiced together for the first time. To facilitate their transition, Gruden expanded his morning walk of the team's plays for this weekend from 35 reps to 80.
For Gruden, the biggest challenge is mental. His offense has 18 snap numbers only, and then there are blocking schedules of rotating plays, blocking schedules & # 39; s for pass-plays and even for play-action plays.
"Whoever can best do it will probably play," said Gruden.
Perhaps this would be more difficult to do if the Redskins were not forced to join an offensive line last season after a flood of injuries. Players who were here shrugged when they remembered Seattle with five new starters on the line and defeated the Seahawks last year. Injuries happen. New players come and go.
"It is November, we play some Thanksgiving football," Tony Bergstrom, who has been part of several offensive line shifts in Redskins, said after Wednesday's training. "That's what they said to me last year:" Everyone who wants to play, we'll be somewhere in the backyard. "
He looked around at the new players who had practiced with him that day – Howard at the right address, Cooper at the left watch and Bowanko, who was doing a television interview in the neighborhood – and shrugged. It is football, he said. Everyone has to catch up quickly. These men have played for years. They will know what to do. The coaches will not change anything, just because there are three new players at stake.
"[The coaches] will not switch to a spreading crime just to make it easier, "said Bergstrom.
And so they practiced on Wednesday, the new attacking lines that taught a new team. Callahan barked at them for two hours and Bergstrom noticed that no one made many mistakes. This was a good start, he said.
Sunday can be another test. The temperatures are expected to be in the 80s and while the new players are training, they have not yet prepared for playing football in the heat of Florida. But that is a concern for another day. The only thing that mattered on Wednesday was that the latest Redskins knew something about the next piece that was called. They will then worry about everything else.
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