- The Washington Times
Wednesday, August 2, 2017

RICHMOND — Most of the Redskins had a light day of work Wednesday, with just a walkthrough and special teams practice on the sixth day of training camp. 

After two lively sessions in pads on Monday and Tuesday, coach Jay Gruden scheduled the special teams practice Wednesday to avoid a third straight day of heavy work. 


“Very few times do you go three full days in a row in pads,” Gruden said. “I thought it was a good time to get some special team work and focus on that. We had a big meeting on special teams last night. Give the big guys a little blow, get them some stretching and let them get a really good lift in there.” 

Without further ado, a special teams-themed edition of what we learned at training camp on Wednesday. 

A kicker’s conundrum

Let’s face it: relative to blocking a 250-pound blitzing linebacker or making a one-handed catch in tight coverage, kicking can look pretty simple. But here’s one illustration of how complicated it really is. 

At the end of practice Monday, cornerback Bashaud Breeland convinced Gruden to let him try kicking a field goal. Breeland’s attempt looked ridiculous, only getting about halfway to the posts from where he kicked at the 40-yard line. Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins said Wednesday, though, that he thought it was going to be a lot worse. 

“It was a straight ball. I was actually impressed. I know he came up pretty short, but it was a straighter ball and better rotation than I was anticipating,” Hopkins said. 

“I’m glad he didn’t make it because then man, maybe they would have some thoughts over there of making moves, man, throw Bree in there.” 

Hopkins also answered a few questions about what training camp is like for a specialist. There’s some standing around for Hopkins, long snapper Nick Sundberg and punter Tress Way, but they have to find ways to use these few weeks in Richmond to their benefit just as much as any other players. 

They go through drills and work on technique but, because a player like Hopkins doesn’t have anyone to kick ‘against,’ the challenge is finding ways to trick his mind into feeling some of the same pressure he would in a game so that he can get used to it. 

“I try to train the best I can every rep, try to focus in every rep instead of kicking to kick, getting something out of every time I go out there,” Hopkins said. “The other part is mentally kind of simulating the game in your mind. Almost trying to give pressure to yourself when it’s not there.

“But at the same time, in the NFL there’s always pressure. Every rep you take is evaluated. I think Jay might have said this yesterday, they were talking about special teams guys and they were saying they feel good with us three, but they have a list. Just like every other NFL team has a list of guys they might call if something were to happen so I think there’s always that incentive there if you will. It doesn’t drive us but we’re aware it’s out there.”

Hopkins said that he’ll think of random game situations — third quarter, in Philadelphia, for example — as he backs up to take a kick. It jump-starts the process of going through the mental checks that he does before taking a real kick. 

Hopkins said, in college, he’d pretty much just go out to practice and kick. But he started focusing more on his mental game, and how he could use his mind better in practice time, because of mentors like Saints punter Thomas Morstead and Sundberg. 

There’s a lot more to every kick than meets the eye. Not every day is special teams day, but Hopkins is always focused on his process so he doesn’t wind up kicking a “worm burner to the left,” like he was worried Breeland would.

Injuries: There wasn’t an official report Wednesday because not every player was practicing, but wide receiver Jamison Crowder (hamstring) fielded punts during the afternoon. Crowder had missed the last three practices, but Gruden expects him back in the next few days. 

Tight end Jordan Reed, on the physically unable to play (PUP) list with a toe injury, did some conditioning work. Reed visited Dr. Robert Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist, in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, but Gruden said “nothing earth shattering” came of the visit. 

“Everything looked pretty good,” Gruden said. 

Gruden said that he doesn’t have an outlook on when Reed will be back in practice, but that he’s not in a rush. 

“We’ll wait until he’s 100 percent. Hopefully it will be before the first game, obviously, but it could be next week,” Gruden said. “We don’t know yet. We’ll just play it by ear.” 

Initially, the Redskins said Reed was only expected to miss about a week, but Gruden said Wednesday that he “probably was a little eager to say that.” 

Bonus: The Redskins submitted a proposal to the NFL’s rules changes committee before the league meetings in Arizona this spring in which touchbacks would be moved back to the 20-yard line if the kicking team could put a kickoff through the uprights. We learned Wednesday that Gruden was not the brains behind that proposal. 

“Well, there are certain things that we don’t all agree on, and I did not agree on that rule,” Gruden said, chuckling. “I thought that was kind of silly. I don’t know who did, it might have been Bruce [Allen]. That’s OK, though. I’m OK with that rule not being in place.”


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