Amidst a growing, diverse city, the Redskins had another positive training camp experience in Richmond, Va., during their time on and off the field. The common refrain heard during the first week of Redskins training camp from Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones was that Virginia's state capital is a growing, burgeoning young city with plenty to offer its diverse population.
The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation hosted the Get The Ball Rolling Flag Football Tournament presented by Coca-Cola for 100 youth in Richmond, Va. on Tuesday, August 4, 2015.
With its rising stock, thanks to the increasing amounts of tourism flocking to the area, Jones is also aware of what a city like Richmond is still missing.
"The thing that larger cities have are professional sports," he said, "and we want to have that."
For nearly three weeks in August, he could say Richmond had acquitted itself nicely in fulfilling those desires, hosting the Redskins for their third straight year of training camp at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center on the city's west side.
Unlike other training camp facilities, the Redskins are the only NFL team to host their practices within a major city not their own. That provides some rare opportunities, not just for fans in Richmond's downtown area, but for the Redskins organization as a whole, reaching out into a strong, tangible community of people.
"I think the great story from this training camp is once again what our Charitable Foundation has done off the field," Redskins President Bruce Allen said. "As we said from the beginning, any way that we can impact the kids in this neighborhood, that is one of our primary goals off the field."
Check out these images of Fan Day on Saturday, August 15, 2015, at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond Va.
Aside from organizing special visits for adults and kids to watch practice each day, the Charitable Foundation helped fund and plan the construction of two Play 60 playgrounds – one in Richmond's East End, the other by the Bon Secours facility – and further strengthened the Redskins Read Program, extending its reach to Richmond public schools.
A mom's clinic and flag football tournament exercised the athletic portion of their mission, too.
Creating a connection with the city also meant continued meetings with some of Richmond's faith leaders. In the middle of training camp, Allen and running back Alfred Morris, among more than 200 people, spoke at the second annual "Faith, Family and Football" luncheon event.
The setting gave Allen and Morris a chance to give testimonies about their own faith backgrounds in front of pastors and clergy members. Later, Redskins owner Dan Snyder and Jane Rodgers, executive director of the Charitable Foundation, received awards along with Allen and quarterback Robert Griffin III for their efforts in the community.
"We wanted to come and share with Mr. Snyder how much we appreciate him," Rev. Joe Ellison said. "He told me personally that he has made a commitment to the city and we want to be in agreement…It's a win-win situation and we will do all we can from the evangelical community to support our team."
But the fans that came to practice every day are not all city dwellers. Richmond's geographic location continues to provide a halfway point for some of the more scattered fans in the region, from those wanting to escape Washington, D.C., to communities a bit more isolated in North Carolina.
"I think the location, being in Richmond, has allowed everybody from Norfolk to Charlottesville to have much easier access and our fans from the Carolinas who come up," Allen said.
Just as fans have the opportunity to meet and converse with each other as they watch practice, the team, filled with many new faces this offseason, enjoyed being able to grow as teammates in a close environment, making friends with autograph seekers and picture takers.
Jones believes Richmond is really "coming into its own," and head coach Jay Gruden thinks his team's unity followed the city's momentum.
"We enjoy our time here," Gruden said. "It's an important time of year for us as a team to get out of our own little comfort blanket…We get to bond. We get to mesh as a team. We get to come out here and practice — a great facility, great field, great training room, great weight room, the hotel's awesome. And then the fan support has been outstanding. We've been fortunate with the weather also. We had one rainy day but overall it's been great. We love our time here, man... it's going to help us in the long run."