RICHMOND—The shoulder pads came out for the first time on Saturday and, predictably, there were a handful of big hits.
Afterward, Coach Jay Gruden said practicing in pads—and being physical—is something the Redskins had better get used to because it’s a tool he uses to evaluate player performance and scheme.
“I think it’s very important for the defense to give the offense the best look possible, and vice versa,” Gruden said. “We can’t do that if we’re just muddling around playing ‘buddy football’. In order to look at your players and scheme and coach it up properly, you got to have people playing full speed and with good pad level. …If you have good pad level, it’s going to be physical. Low man wins. We know that.”
Gruden did, however, say that he and his assistants will be careful not to wear out their players in camp. Next week for example, the Redskins will practice in full pads on Sunday and Monday before taking off Tuesday. After that, the staff will evaluate the team's collective health.
"We’ll see where we stand,” Gruden said. “If everybody is fairly healthy, and we feel like as coaches we can continue to have the shoulder pads, we’ll do it. If we feel we need to taper off a little bit based on the health of our players, we will. That’s a day-to-day decision of the coaching staff.”
Earlier Saturday, veteran nose tackle Barry Cofield said camp's first padded practice felt more physical and intense than previous years.
“We’re maybe a little bit more physical this year,” he said. “We’re going to be in full pads more often. It’s just a mindset thing, a mind-state of the coach, what he prefers. So, maybe putting on the pads everyday will instill a little more physicality into the practices.”
Some other highlights from Gruden’s media availability at the Bon Secours Training Center:
- Running back Evan Royster, who is competing for a job behind Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr., is nursing a hamstring strain. Gruden said Royster is day-to-day and will return when he feels he’s ready.
- Gruden said there’s still no firm timetable on Jason Hatcher, who is rehabbing from a late June knee scope. “I don’t foresee it being a long wait for him to be back in the lineup,” Gruden said.
- Gruden said he had discussion with safety Brandon Meriweather about lowering his target. Meriweather, of course, has landed in trouble with the NFL in the past for headhunting. Gruden hinted that Meriweather may have gone for a high hit in Saturday’s practice. “I told him he’s going to get a two-practice suspension if he doesn’t lower his target,” Gruden said.
- Once again, Gruden praised Santana Moss and the veteran leadership he brings to the wide receiving corps. “How much he’s going to be used, I don’t know,” Gruden said. “I like what he’s doing. I don’t think he’s lost a step. …I like the fact that he’s a Washington Redskin.”
- Gruden also said he likes the job Kory Lichtensteiger has done sliding from guard to center. “He’s a natural center in my opinion,” he said. “He’s got great movement, obviously, and he’s done good with the [pre-snap] calls.”
- On avoiding the types of controversies that engulfed the franchise last season, Gruden said: “We’re going to have our rifts from time to time, but we’re going to try to keep those in-house. For whatever reason they got exposed last year [in] the media. Anytime you have a disagreement with a player, it’s between the player and the coach. And hopefully it stays that way.”
- Gruden also praised second year corner David Amerson, saying, “He’s playing with a lot of confidence. [There's] a lot of swag about him.”