The referees, the sprints, the captains leading stretch -- all of these were new developments during practice Wednesday at Redskins Park.
The music that typically played throughout individual drills was cut off after the stretching period, which concluded with an unfamiliar team huddle. The players then broke into abnormal groups, with the running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks all practicing ball security. One-by-one, they zigzagged downfield as members of the coaching staff tried to knock the ball out with arm pads.
"High and tight, high and tight," interim head coach Bill Callahan shouted as his players ran by.
This was the beginning of a new reality for the Redskins under Callahan, who led a brisk-paced, physical practice as the team prepares for Week 6 in Miami.
"Just really trying to get back to some really hardcore fundamentals and really straddle the line, it's really kind of a fine line of the health of your team and also pushing them physically to improve their fundamentals," Callahan said. "I think we accomplished both today."
Callahan explained the reasoning for each change in his post-practice press conference. He said it's always a positive to showcase leadership, so that's why the Redskins' captains -- Case Keenum, Brandon Scherff, Ryan Kerrigan, Landon Collins, Deshazor Everett and Jonathan Allen -- were up front to lead stretches. Callahan also understands the importance of conditioning, especially for a team that's struggled in the second half of games and one that will play in Miami on Sunday. In preparation, the team concluded practice with sideline-to-sideline sprints, otherwise known as "gassers." He wants to ensure the offense can sustain drives and defense can handle lengthy possessions.
To promote discipline, Callahan called the NFL league office to find local college referees hungry to officiate in the professional ranks. He hopes their presences will help limit infractions for a Redskins team that ranks 30th in the league in penalties against (47) and near the bottom in penalty yards (331). For Wednesday's practice, Callahan had them closely monitor offensive alignments at the point of attack and coverages in the secondary. He anticipates they'll be back later on in the season.
"We'll see them again," Callahan said. "I think it's great to have them."
Other emphases throughout practice included "P & 10," which is the initial first-down play of a new drive. Callahan explained to his players that these are prime opportunities for offenses to generate big plays and for defenses to cause disruption -- both of which are "critically important" to the outcome of games. There was also a developmental period later in the practice, which was designed for inexperienced players to receive 1-on-1 instruction in various areas.
As for the quarterback situation, Callahan said the reps were well distributed between Case Keenum, Colt McCoy and Dwayne Haskins, who all received first-team work. He's not ready to name a Week 6 starter yet -- "we're just really assessing and evaluating the health of our position" -- but said an announcement will probably come Friday.
"Some of the structure was different, some of the team periods and how we did a lot of them. Just little tweaks here and there," Keenum said about Wednesday's practice. "But I think all good stuff to keep up together and keep us accountable."
Several of Keenum's teammates also weighed in on the first practice under Callahan. Rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin said that while the workout was more physical, the No. 1 emphasis remains the same: "playing four quarters of football." Veteran right tackle Morgan Moses, who has worked directly with Callahan for nearly his entire career, added that his position coach demands attention to detail.
Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen offered his assessment, too, and his description of Callahan falls in line with with how practice was run Wednesday and how the team will operate moving forward.
"He's a very passionate, energetic coach who is going to bring the physicality every day, and that's the kind of team we're going to be on Sunday."