As offseason workouts begin this week, Redskins players are looking forward to meeting their new coaches and teammates, and starting fresh again.
The NFL offseason requires balance. After enduring a grueling six months of football, players find ways to temper rest and relaxation with continued strength and conditioning. They must accept the hardships that come with saying goodbye to departing teammates while embracing the ones taking their place.
Nobody understands this better than Redskins running back Alfred Morris, who realizes the inherent duality
of the offseason as he prepares for another year in the backfield.
"It's been fun," Morris said of his offseason Friday. "I mean, it goes fast though."
The Redskins -- at least some of them -- return to Ashburn, Va., on Monday to begin Phase 1 of offseason workouts, where they'll get the chance to shake off some rust, meet their new coaches, engage with new teammates and reconnect with returning ones, working out as a team for the first time in 2015.
That initial welcoming, though, is the first step in re-orienting and re-dedicating themselves for the coming months.
"The season is long and it's grueling. It's a grind," Morris said. "So, [when] you get the opportunity to rest and relax, that's what you should do. I try my best to do that while staying and actually working out. There's some young running backs in the draft, some undrafted young guy, who wants my job. Every year your job is up for grabs. You have to be able to stay on top of your competition and work hard to keep your job."
That particular belief – for some a fear, others a challenge – is what makes the offseason a valuable time of year, turning the page on the prior season and shifting mentalities for the coming one.
"We get a fresh start," said fullback Darrel Young, who did some travelling and boxing with his time off. "I love [former offensive line coach] Chris Foerster, who is no longer with us, but we have a new O-line coach [in Bill Callahan] who had a lot of success…They always say they're trying to put us in the best situation. We have to put ourselves in the best situation, too, and it starts on Monday, in terms of being together on one page."
The biggest conceit, even at this point in both Young and Morris' careers, is the need to continually prove themselves. Though veterans and among the best at their postions in the league, the influx of new coaches and several new players will force them to re-establish their styles of play and show their leadership again.
"I'm excited to see what happens," Young said. "I have to prove myself yet again going into a new offense with new coaches, with guys stepping in around you…because they have no idea who you are in terms of personality and stuff like that."
That's always a challenge heading into May. But Young has a renewed focus this season to guide Morris in
"The biggest thing right now is helping out," Young said. "My personal goal: Alfred had games under 25 yards rushing [last season]. That's embarrassing for me as a blocker, for him every game, so I've got to do better in that aspect."
Young's ability to provide more lanes this season may be eased depending on whom the team drafts in a couple weeks – many expect at least one offensive lineman to be taken. Already, the defense has gone under major renovation and the addition of eight coaches should change the direction of the previous year.
"Every offseason you always have turnover and it's not the most fun time of year," longsnapper Nick Sundberg said. "I'm just excited to meet everybody and see what they can bring to the table, how they can help us win. I think [head coach] Jay [Gruden] and [general manager] Scot [McCloughan] have done a great job of bringing high-character guys in to compete and hopefully make us a better team."
Morris will carry the same bittersweet mentality into Monday, too.
"It's kind of sad at the same time to see some guys that you have good relationships with, not only the players but the coaches as well, and another year passed and they're gone," Morris said. "New opportunities, new faces. I know they did a good job -- the front office getting the right people in here so that we can be contender again in the postseason."
Morris knows that "these past two seasons have been very, very disappointing," but as the team begins to come together this spring, it's never difficult to find optimism for what lies ahead.
"It's hard when you work so hard and put time and effort in and it doesn't translate to the field. So [I'm] just trying to find a way to get it done this year," he said. "It's been very disappointing for us, I'm sure the fans have been disappointed. We're just going to try to find a way to do even better this year, get back to the postseason, make the Redskins a Super Bowl contender again. That'd be awesome."