With an exciting, young quarterback under center and the potential of a championship-level defense in its arsenal, there's lots to be excited about for Washington Redskins fans this season.
At the 51st annual Welcome Home Luncheon on Friday at the JW Marriott in Washington D.C., however, head coach Mike Shanahan reminded the crowd that "talk is cheap," and that his team will simply go out and try to play its best football this season without making lofty predictions or expectations.
The luncheon was on the eve of the Redskins' preseason home opener against the Indianapolis Colts at FedExField, which is the first of two home games to wrap up the preseason slate before the team opens up its regular season Sept. 9 against the New Orleans Saints.
"The only game we're concentrated on is the Saints," Shanahan said. "We know what we've got to get done, and you're going to be very proud of this football team this season."
As usual, there was a historical context attached to Friday's Welcome Home Luncheon, which was the official unveiling of the team's "10 for 80" campaign, in which Redskins fans and a blue-ribbon panel selected the 10 players of the organization to join the 70 greatest Redskins named in 2002.
The 10 winners include LaVar Arrington, Bobby Beathard, Joe Bugel, Terry Hermeling, Jon Jansen, Roy Jefferson, Richie Petitbon, Clinton Portis, Chris Samuels and Sean Taylor.
The team also presented three players with 2011 Player of the Year awards at Friday's luncheon, which, for the first time, were named after historic Redskins players.
Taking home the 2011 "Bobby Mitchell Offensive Player of the Year" award was tight end Fred Davis, who had a career-year last season with 59 receptions for 796 yards and three touchdowns.
"This award is an individual award, but to me it's a team effort, because no one could play football by themselves," Davis said. "I'd like to thank my offensive linemen, quarterbacks, receivers – everybody."
Next up was 2011 "Mark Moseley Special Teams Player of the Year" recipient, Lorenzo Alexander.
Alexander – who has played several positions both on offense and defense during his tenure with the Redskins – said he's leaned on great teammates along the way.
"Each time I've played a position, I've been blessed with a Chris Samuels, or a London Fletcher now, to learn from and be able to take those guys' knowledge and abilities so I can go out there and perform," said Alexander, who dropped 15 pounds to become a middle linebacker for the 2012 squad.
Not surprisingly, the aforementioned Fletcher took home the 2011 "Sam Huff Defensive Player of the Year" award.
Fletcher – who was elected to the Pro Bowl last season after leading the NFL in tackles – joked with the crowd about taking the title away from outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who was named defensive player of the year for the 2010 season.
"[Orakpo] won this award last year," Fletcher said with a smile. "But I'm back."
Orakpo didn't leave Friday's luncheon empty-handed, however. The fourth-year player out of Texas was given the Redskins' second-annual community service award.
"This goes to, really, the individual player who makes an unbelievable effort in the community; that's there at almost every event, spends his day off during the season and really works in the community hands-on," Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder said. "And I couldn't be more proud for Brian."
Orakpo – who helps coordinate the annual Leukemia Golf Classic and his own youth camps in the D.C. area and in Texas – said he's happy to take time for Redskins fans everywhere.
"Every time I see a young child that wants an autograph or wants to spend, you know, two, three minutes, it's hard for me to pass that up," Orakpo said. "Every time I go to the grocery store and I run into Redskins fans, just happy that I'm there getting the regular stuff at the store, they're so excited. And I don't mind sharing a photo or autographs or anything like that because it means a lot to them."
The team also began another new tradition Friday by handing out its first-ever USAA Salute to Service Award to fullback Darrel Young.
Young, whose brother David has served five tours in Afghanistan, spent time this offseason visiting troops in Honduras, El Salvador and Afghanistan.
"It humbled me a little bit," Young admitted. "I learned what camaraderie is."
Proceeds from the luncheon, including monies collected from live and silent auctions, benefitted the Redskins Charitable Foundation and the Redskins Alumni Association.