Out At Redskins Park: Insightful Answers. At Last.

Usually media ask the same mundane, boring questions (save for yours truly) out at Redskins Park, but this time, after Sundays' media invited, open access to the Redskins mini-camp we finally get down to some brass tacks - by both the coaching staff and players.

First Up Coach Mike Shanahan...
On if quarterback Donovan McNabb met expectations during mini-camp: “Donovan has done a great job since he has been here. It’s always a learning situation any time you come in. It’s like learning a different language any time you have a different system. Even though some of the terminology is the same, there are a lot of differences in what we do and what Philly has done through the years, but he’s a worker. He’s come out here and he’s really thrown the ball well. I’m just looking forward to him getting to know the system a little bit better and feeling more comfortable with the system as we go through these OTAs.”

On defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth not attending the mini-camp: “The reason why I like people here is the standard of how we operate as an organization. I think our players are getting a good feel on what we expect on and off the football field both, in the offseason program. Obviously learning the Xs and Os, we got some OTAs ahead of us and what you do [is] you get a chance to see how we operate, the coaching staff. Also, you’re going to get a chance to get a good feel of our system. What I found out with players, especially as they get older, if they don’t really have a commitment to the offseason program they get pulled hamstrings, quads. They can’t stay healthy and anytime that you work out with your teammates, normally it’s a big plus. Now the people that don’t do that, obviously there is a downside, and as you get older it is harder to push yourself to the next level. Obviously Albert has made a decision to do that. I am hoping he comes in, in great shape and can help our football team win. We’ve made a big investment in Albert and hopefully he can come in here, stay healthy and play at a level where he can help us win. We will find that out in time.”

On if he has had people in the past who have trained away from the facility: “I have had people in the past. I gave Shannon Sharpe the ability when I first got to Denver. He proved to me that he could be in the best shape. I gave him the opportunity to go back to Atlanta because I never worried about Shannon. He would still show up to offseason conditioning programs. I think you know that I want everybody here, especially, some of the people that you are counting on to be some of your big time players, people that you want to lead. Obviously, he’s made a decision to do what he wants to do. I’m just hoping that he can come in here, in great shape, come in here and prove me wrong. What I mean by that is a guy that is doing everything he can in the offseason program, not being with his teammates and come in here and help us win.”

And the big one, about the Big One. On if he is open to trading Albert Haynesworth: “There has not been one mention about trading Haynesworth or any other player on this football team since I have been here. The only person that I have allowed to talk to other teams is Jason Campbell. I want to get a good feel of the people that we have on this team. I’m not looking to trade anybody on our team.”

**Take that you radio sports talk hosts, you. Why speculate about what YOU'D like see happen? You ain't running things. Clearly Shanahan is. **

On if there is concern about Albert Haynesworth accepting his role in the 3-4 defense: “First of all, I don’t worry about people that aren’t here. I’m not worried about Albert Haynesworth. I always look at a person that’s not here just like they sprained their ankle on their first play of the game. They might be out for the season. That happens. Those things happen. If Albert comes in and he plays at a very high level and gives us a chance to win, so be it. If not, I’ll look at a guy that just sprained his ankle on the first practice and he’s out for the year so we will see that. What I want to talk about is the people that are here. That gives our organization a chance to grow.

I especially like this one from Coach Shanahan...
All this talk has been about Albert, nobody has asked me about these other players that have been working their rear ends off for the last month.”

We've heard this question asked before, but I guess it had to be asked, yet again.On if quarterback Donovan McNabb is a leader: “When I first came in to Denver, [John] Elway was older than Donovan. When I was with San Francisco and won the Super Bowl, Steve Young was older than Donovan and five years later I tried to get Steve Young back after John Elway retired and he had that concussion. I think everybody knows what type of leader Donovan is. It’s always nice to have a guy that has done it consistently in big games, who’s played well, who’s been able to do what he has done at Philly for those years going to the NFC Championship Games and obviously going to a Super Bowl. You like that about them. Our players understand that. He’s a natural leader. He’s got charisma. He enjoys practicing. He enjoys the game and I’m looking forward to obviously building our offense around him.”

On if he saw any examples of Donovan McNabb’s leadership this weekend: “Just the way he practices. Just the way he handles himself. There is a sense of urgency. He’s a natural leader the way he handles himself with his teammates. Just the way he goes about his business. Anytime you have a guy who’s a natural leader it’s very easy to see.”

Another big one. On how satisfied he is with running back Clinton Portis’ work ethic: "Clinton has worked very hard. He’s done everything I have asked him to do. I don’t believe he has missed an offseason workout except the one time he had to get checked out for his concussion. He’s working extremely hard. He had three excellent days in the mini-camp. We’ve got some competition. We’ve got a lot of guys working extremely hard. I think our conditioning staff is doing a great job getting these guys ready for our OTAs and players have done everything I have asked them to do.”

On differences between this mini-camp and his mini-camps in Denver: “Very similar, you got a standard on how you practice, on how you operate as an organization. You can always go back and look at things and say ‘Hey, if I had to do it over again, what would I do a little bit differently?’ I think everybody does that. Most of it is communicating with your players, letting them know the standard that you expect them to practice at or how you conduct meetings, how you expect them to handle themselves and you get to obviously implement your offense, defense and special teams as well.”

With the NFL Draft just 4 days away...
How has Shanahan worked with Executive Vice President/General Manager Bruce Allen in preparing for the draft?
“It’s a long process, obviously, taking a look at all this film. You got the scouts in, the college scouts, the coaches. It’s just a long process of evaluating all these players. You take into consideration the coaches’ evaluation, the scouts’ evaluation and we’re looking at a lot of film. There is no easy way to do it. It’s just a lot of hours, a lot of evaluation. You’ve got a Redskins board that we’ll be looking at and that’s one of the reasons for this mini-camp out here. You get a mini-camp to evaluate our players, the players that I haven’t had the chance to be around, to address some of your needs if it is through the draft or maybe a trade here and there or possibly free agency as time goes on.”

On what is has been like to work with Bruce Allen:
“Bruce has got a lot of experience doing this over the years. Obviously when I was in Denver and he was at Tampa [Bay] we talked many a times with trades when we were on the clock. So he’s a veteran. He’s very good at what he does.”

On if there were any players that surprised him this weekend: “There was a few but I don’t share that with you because then you’ll have an idea of what were going to do in free agency or the draft. But yeah, there was a number of those people that I was pleasantly surprised and a couple out there that you were disappointed in. That’s usually the case. It’s a long process so a three day mini-camp is not the end of the day. It’s part of the evaluation process and we’ve got a lot of days ahead of us and I’m looking forward to them.”

Ya Gotta Have Standards.
On what his message to the team was at the start of mini-camp:

“First of all, we talked about a standard of how we practiced. That’s how we practice everyday. It’s the way I’ve practiced since I’ve been a head coach, and really got that started when I was in San Francisco. I learned that from that organization, and its stayed with me since I’ve been a head football coach. Doing certain things that we feel is the right way to practice. Finishing was one of those things today.”

On if this draft is deep enough to only have four picks to address the team’s needs: “Obviously there’s a gameplan there, exactly how far do you slide, and what do you get in return. There are a number of different scenarios that we’ll look at, and possibly do, you just don’t really know at this time. But it’s part of your gameplan going in, what gives you the best chance to have success long-term, and that’ll be part of the process.”

On the status of Rocky McIntosh: “I understand what Rocky’s [McIntosh] situation is. A lot of these guys that have been restricted free agents, and all of the sudden you’re going into your fifth year, going into your sixth year, and years pass and they’ll be getting that big contract. I understand and I can sympathize with what they’re going through, but at the same time we’re dealing with the situation at hand. I’d like Rocky to come in as quick as possible and be with his teammates, but I understand agents, some guys view things differently. I got a lot of respect for Rocky, and hopefully he’ll be in here quickly.”

On if the running back job will be designated to one player or multiple players: “I think the end result is you want a productive running game. The experiences that I’ve had through past is we’ve done it different ways. We’ve had a 2,000-yard back, we’ve had a 1,750-yard back, we’ve had a 1,500-yard back, and we’ve had 2,500-yard back with three guys doing it. So, who gets it done? It really doesn’t matter if you’re doing it with three guys, one guy, or two guys; you want to be productive in the running game. That’s the bottom line. And it’s not just yards, it’s yards per attempt.”

On what it was like being with his son, Kyle, on the field for the first time: “It was fun. You hate to brag on your son, but you never get a chance to work with him before, it was really an interesting adjustment for me because we’re very proud. He understands the game. He’s so much further than I was at his age it’s not even close. I was a coordinator in the league at 31 years old, and I look back and his knowledge is so far past mine at that age it’s kind of amazing.”

On if he is happy with four picks in the NFL Draft or would he like to add more: “I would like a lot of picks.” Duh.

Making the Band. I mean the O-Line.
On the characteristics he’s looking for when evaluating the offensive line:
“Good offensive lineman. We’re looking for a balance. You want guys that can obviously do the job in the running game, and they have the ability to pass protect as well. These guys have been working extremely hard for the last month and I was impressed with a lot of our offensive linemen the last couple days.”

On his draft philosophy with regards to trading picks:
“I think if you look at my past, I love draft choices, so this is a little bit unusual for me going in without a third or a sixth rounder, and making the decision to acquire someone like Donovan [McNabb]. In the past I haven’t done that very many times. Every once in a while you’ll throw a draft choice here or there, which you feel gives your football team a chance to get better, but at the same time you know those draft choices are very important and I guarantee you we won’t give them away very quickly unless we think it’s the best thing for the football team.”

Back to DNab
On a characteristic about Donovan McNabb he was not aware of:
“I always liked the way he handled himself with the media. I thought he always handled himself in a class manner, and some of the toughest questions I’ve ever seen asked to somebody were some of the questions I’ve seen Donovan handle. I thought he handled it with as much class as anybody I’ve ever seen, and he handled himself the same way on the football field with his teammates. He’s a guy that has a lot of talent, and at the same time has a lot of charisma and class.”

Making People Accountable
On if there is a contradiction between holding players accountable and establishing trust:
"Just the opposite. What you have to do as a head football coach is you have to make people accountable. That’s my job. It’s also their job to understand what it takes to have this organization be successful. And my job is to make sure that everybody is accountable to each other, and they have a lot of experience on how to practice, how to do things. If you have rules, the reason why you do have rules, and we don’t have a lot of rules, is to make them, everybody, beat to the same drum. If you don’t, usually you’re not very good.”

On if the defense is officially a 3-4:
“I think if you take a look at Jim’s [Haslett] background, our base is off of a three-man front. Now, we also do a lot of things with the four-man front, so we’re using a combination of different things. I’m just saying we’re using a three-man, we’re using four-man, a lot of people in different positions, and that’s why were calling it the Redskins defense.”

On if the three-man front concept is a new addition to his playbook: I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, and I’m glad that I have somebody with the experience to actually implement it, and feel very comfortable with it because a number of guys have been around the 3-4 system for a long time, and yet they understand the four-man front as well, and they’ve used it for a number of years. A combination of both those things is what my philosophy has been. Because it’s been very successful, and if you take a look from an offensive perspective it’s much harder to prepare for. You’re not really sure who’s coming. A lot of different variations you can do, at least from my perspective with a three-man front, and the four-man front to really keep an offense off balance.”

Shanahan on Redskin Turnovers. On if this new defense is more conducive to generating turnovers: “That’s one of our big emphasis is turnovers. If you take a look at some of the defenses that have used the three-man front, it’s a big change so hopefully those turnovers will come, but as you mentioned that will be our big emphasis. Over the last four years we were dead last, 32nd in the NFL. For us to be the type of football team we want to be, we’re going to have to make some big time strides in that area and hopefully we will.”

In essence, some pretty good questions and answers from Coach Shanahan. Very insightful.

Defensive Coordinator, Jim Haskett sums up the mini-camp like this: “I thought it went well. I thought the players out there worked hard. I enjoyed working with them. I think they are very intelligent. They are a very intelligent group, a very athletic group and I can see why they have played well in the past. I am excited about coaching.”

On whether Albert Haynesworth will be strictly a nose tackle:
“He will play every position up and down the front in this scheme.”

On how much players who are not at mini-camp are missing: “They have a lot to learn. There are more things to this defense – there are a lot of things. I think the longer you stay away, you have a lot of catching up to do, but being around the guys who are not here, knowing them and knowing how consensus they are, I think that they will be fine once we get them here and get them up to speed. I do not think it will be a big learning process.”

On whether he has been in contact with Albert Haynesworth and Rocky McIntosh: “I have talked to both of them. I know our linebackers coach has talked to Rocky on a consistent basis. They both understand that we would love to have them here, but obviously that is not happening right now and that is out of my control. It really doesn’t bother me because I have to coach the guys that are here and have fun with them, and I am doing that. I think they will be fine once they get here.”