RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The most stressful part for Jay Gruden was setting up the schedule. Sixteen days of Washington Redskins practices and meetings, all on him.
“I tried to use input from everybody,” he said.
Gruden takes the field Thursday for his first training camp practice as an NFL head coach, the culmination of a long climb that took him through the AFL and UFL before his final launching pad stop as the offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“There’s anticipation,” Gruden said. “You’re excited about the season. You’re nervous; you’ve got butterflies walking out there every day. You want to make sure everything’s right. You want to make sure you’re giving the players everything they need to succeed.”
Gruden sent the players through conditioning drills Wednesday in the stifling heat and humidity of a central Virginia summer. All but four will be on the field Thursday: Three are recovering from knee surgeries, and one is out of shape.
Defensive end Jason Hatcher (left knee), defensive end Stephen Bowen (right knee), receiver Leonard Hankerson (left knee) and guard Maurice Hurt will start camp on the physically unable to perform list. Hatcher, acquired as a free agent from the Dallas Cowboys, had arthroscopic surgery last month and should return sometime during camp. He’s expected back sooner than Bowen and Hankerson, who had more serious ligament injuries.
Gruden said fourth-year guard Hurt “came in a little bit out of shape,” not a good sign for a player fighting for a roster spot.
One player eager to go is franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III, who was limited at last year’s camp while recovering from major knee surgery and didn’t play in any preseason games. Gruden said Griffin’s physical condition is “not an issue” but that Griffin will be nevertheless be tested both physically and mentally.
“He’s in his third year. He’s still going to make mistakes here and there,” Gruden said. “But the key for him is to learn from his mistakes and not make the same mistakes over and over. … He’s got a long way to go. He understands that.”
For those who see those comments as overly critical, Gruden emphasized he would say the same about any quarterback.
“I could sit here for 35, 40 minutes and talk about what (Griffin) needs to work on,” Gruden said. “And I’ll say the same thing about what Tom Brady needs to work on. That’s just the position.”
Camp runs through Aug. 12 and includes three days of workouts with Brady and the New England Patriots. The Redskins are in Richmond for the second consecutive year, but this year’s group has been humbled by a 3-13 record that cost coach Mike Shanahan his job.
Another of Gruden’s challenges as a newbie head coach is making certain that all the longshots get a fair shake. More than 40 percent of the 90 players in camp won’t make the final roster.
“There’s nothing worse as a coach,” Gruden said, “than when you let somebody go and they go on and kick your (butt) later on.”
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