Signing with another team can be a big transition, but having the right kind of teammates certainly helps relieve some of the stress.
That is something offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. has been figuring out over the past three weeks. He spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Chicago Bears before joining the Washington Football Team in May, and now the perennial starter has been placed in a group that features competitions at multiple key spots.
Leno has the chance to get acquainted with his new teammates in person during Washington's OTAs, and so far he has experienced nothing but good vibes.
"[They're] all really down to earth, really chill," Leno told Senior Vice President of Media and Content Julie Donaldson. "That's the biggest thing. It's a really chill O-Line. I don't know how to explain it any more than that."
Several of Washington's newcomers have mentioned how welcoming their teammates have been since they joined the team. William Jackson III, for example, said that everyone in his position group treated him like family. Leno is going through something similar with the other offensive linemen, and they are already pushing each other to get better in the weight room and on the field.
"I pull guys to the side and ask them questions to help me out but to also help them out," Leno said, "because at the end of the day, you're only as strong as your weakest link."
Based on head coach Ron Rivera’s description of him in May, Leno already possesses some qualities that show he is an ideal fit on Washington's offensive line. He has started the past 109 games of his career, so he is certainly durable. And he was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2018, meaning he has a history of performing up to par with some of the best in his position.
And the way Rivera sees it, there is no such thing as having enough quality offensive line depth.
"We had 10 guys that were active and six on the practice squad and I just felt that that was a big plus for us," Rivera said. "I think last year down the stretch it really helped us in terms of being able to practice, but more importantly being able to field quality starters with quality backups and so the more we can get and the more guys that we can have at specific positions, the offensive line being one of them, we're going to continue to try and do that."
Of course, all that depth means that there will not be enough starting jobs for everyone. Spots like right guard and center are locked up by Brandon Scherff and Chase Roullier, respectively, but both tackle positions are up for grabs. Leno has seen time with the starters on the left side, but Washington is still a long way from deciding its starting lineup for Week 1.
Naturally, Leno is not the only one who wants to be a starter, but he and the rest of Washington's offensive line are using that drive to push each other.
"That's part of being a professional," Leno said. "You measure yourself up against guys...in your room, and then after that, guys across the league. Right now, we're just trying to get the best that we possibly can out of each other."
That mixture of competition and teamwork is what Rivera has built in Washington over the past year, and the head coach's reputation for achieving that is what drew Leno to the team in the first place.
"It's cool because I think guys are seeing that we're trying to do things a different way and we're trying to do things a better way," Rivera said. "One of the things we worked on last year was the way we practiced, and I think our players really got hold [of it] and got a good feel for it. As the season progressed, we started taking more and more care of our players."
Leno's first month with his new team has gone well enough so far, and right now there is plenty of time to get acquainted with his teammates. But that will take a backseat in training camp, when it will be time for all of them to make their case to be a starter.
"Right now it's OTAs, so the real competition definitely starts in training camp," Leno said. "Guys are working hard trying to perfect their craft so when training camp comes around and jobs start to fall in place, guys can stick."