School’s out for summer at Redskins Park. Coach Jay Gruden, the benevolent principal, cancelled what would have been a third day of minicamp in 90-degree heat Thursday, letting players out after a 2 p.m. meeting Wednesday. Break is over in six weeks, when the team reconvenes in Richmond for training camp on July 27.
Until then, quarterback Kirk Cousins has three main things on his to-do list: finish his contract negotiations, get ready to welcome his first child in September, and golf. Or whatever else it takes to relax before the season and fatherhood begin.
First, the contract. For the second straight year, Kirk Cousins has July 15 circled on his calendar, the deadline for him to sign a long-term deal.
Most of his contract dealings will run through Eric Schaffer, Washington’s newly-promoted vice president of football operations, who Cousins likes and who understands both sides of the process as a former agent.
“Kirk is a really good player and he’s a Redskin and we only want him to be here. We’ve expressed that,” Schaffer said Tuesday. “But in all of these different negotiations you never know what can happen. It’s also a two-sided deal.”
Wednesday, Cousins praised Schaffer for his talent and tone as a negotiator, but threw in a deft reminder that he knows who has true control of the purse-strings.
“Eric has done a great job all along. He’s very smart, this isn’t his first rodeo so I have a lot of faith in him not only in my situation but when my situation is handled, handling everybody else’s, you know, I have faith in that,” Cousins said.
“But make no mistake,” Cousins continued. “There are titles ahead of him, and those people make decisions too. So, yes, Eric has a big role but there are people above him with bigger roles and that’s why their titles are president and head coach and so on and so forth.”
Schaffer is highly intelligent and has a unique skillset and is a trusted opinion in Washington, but the money runs through owner Daniel Snyder and President Bruce Allen, and Cousins knows that.
Cousins is able to keep some distance from the negotiations because of his agent, Mike McCartney.
“I hired Mike because I trust him to do the job and I feel like he’s done a very good job all the way along and while things he’s told me I haven’t always liked to hear, they haven’t always been easy to act on, he’s always been right as I look back,” Cousins said. “And so I have great trust in his council and his approach and I’ll definitely lean on him as we go forward all the way through it.”
It will help Cousins accomplish another summer goal if he can avoid spending much mental energy on his contract. Cousins said that, at the start of last season, he realized he’d poured his focus into the offseason and was feeling a bit burnt out.
“I do believe that last year, I remember watching film for the Steelers Week 1 and it hit me that we hadn’t played a game yet, technically. I felt like I had been going a million miles an hour since the previous end of the playoff game against the Packers [the last season],” Cousins said.
“That hit me like, ‘Now it counts, now I’ve got to be ready, and I’m pretty exhausted.’”
Last year, Cousins was just one offseason removed from having to win the starting job. He spent his time away from the team “going over the plays 80 times” and scheduled entire workdays in 15-minute increments. Cousins felt the need to be on top of his game at optional practices, all through training camp and in every preseason game.
“I think I was treating every day like it was Monday Night Football against the Steelers,” Cousins said. I think if you do that 365 days a year, there’s a thing called burnout.”
Cousins is more comfortable now. Even in practice, he’s more willing to experiment. The polite way to describe Wednesday’s drills is to say that the secondary had a good day — with interceptions for Josh Norman, D.J. Swearinger off balls thrown by Cousins.
Cousins underthrew a pass to Terrelle Pryor — whose long stride he is adjusting to — and forced a ball to Josh Doctson in double-coverage, allowing Swearinger to make the play.
“I shouldn’t have thrown it, but I wanted to get it out there and just kind of test it,” Cousins said.
Coach Jay Gruden said that he’s trying to get Cousins to “force the issue a little bit,” particularly on downfield throws, so he doesn’t mind a few mistakes rooted in aggression.
Cousins will still spend time in the playbook preparing, but he plans to hit the golf course a bit more in June and July. This summer will be his last without duties as a father, too. Cousins and his wife, Julie, are expecting a baby boy right around Week 1.
The timing isn’t quite ideal, Cousins said, but his wife has a plan. She is putting another bed in their nursery, where she’ll sleep most nights and take care of the baby so that he can rest uninterrupted.
If that’s the case, Cousins should also find the time this summer to seek out a very good florist.
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