RICHMOND, Va. — 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.
The Chamberlain High graduate and former Storm quarterback takes the field today 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 are expected to be on the field today: 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 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.
Camp runs through Aug. 12 and includes three days of workouts with 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 long shots 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.”