AP Sports Writer
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Fan Appreciation Day was a lot easier on the fans this year at Washington Redskins training camp.
After last year’s frightening scenes of spectators wilting in midday heat, the team limited the crowd by issuing tickets to this year’s marquee practice. Things appeared to go smoothly Saturday as the band, cheerleaders, Robert Griffin III and the rest of the players entertained the masses.
“Great weather. Great enthusiasm. I think for the crowd, they’re more comfortable — the ones that got in,” team president Bruce Allen said.
About 100 spectators were treated for dehydration at last year’s fan day, including 10 who were hospitalized. The Redskins said 20,477 fans were on hand this year, about 5,000 fewer than in 2013. Admission was free, but some people nevertheless tried to take advantage of the demand by selling the tickets on the secondary market.
It also helped that this year’s practice was held earlier in the day, and that the weather was overcast and unseasonably cool.
The highlight at some of the previous fan days has been the coach’s speech to the crowd. New coach Jay Gruden kept it short and energetic, his enthusiasm again offering a sharp contrast to the more serious approach of predecessor Mike Shanahan.
“We need the 12th man to make this thing turn around quickly,” Gruden told the crowd.
Team owner Dan Snyder joined the players for the autograph session. He declined to speak to reporters.
On the field, the defense got the better of the offense when the first-teamers were on the field, continuing a pattern that began on Day 1 of camp. Griffin again spent a lot of time holding the ball and scrambling, looking for open receivers.
On Saturday, he was missing his top target. Receiver DeSean Jackson wore shorts instead of full pads and did not practice.
“He had a little soreness in his legs,” Gruden said. “Just trying to keep him fresh. He’s been running a lot.”
Receiver Pierre Garcon, who was limited for much of the week with a strained hamstring, was a full participant.
The Redskins have a day off Sunday before three days of practices against the New England Patriots. Tickets have also been rationed for those sessions.
“I haven’t experienced playing against another team in practice, so it’ll be interesting,” Griffin said. “To sit here and tell you I won’t be looking at Tom Brady to see what he’s doing, that would be a lie. I’ll be looking at him, but he won’t be the focus of attention the entire time that they’re here.
“You always want to talk to those guys and suck up whatever knowledge you can from them, but at the end of the day I have to go out and practice against the New England Patriots defense. I’m past the goo-goo-ga-ga eyes over the players that you see out there on the field.”
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