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Training Camp Daily 8/31: Alex Smith Makes His Return To FedExField

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Training camp is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team prepares for the 2020 campaign.

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There were no cheers at FedExField as Alex Smith trotted onto the field to participate in 11-on-11 drills Monday afternoon. Smith was in no danger of getting sacked, and players were only in helmets and shoulder pads.

Still, there was a certain significance that hung over the stadium as Smith directed the offense for a series. After all, he suffered a life-threatening injury the last time he took a snap in that stadium. There were many who believed this day would never come.

"We like what Alex has been doing," head coach Ron Rivera told reporters after practice. "We like the growth we've seen. As we progress with about a week to go before we really start gearing up for the opener, we'll continue to work with him."

Technically, Smith had already reached the milestone of directing a full offense against a pass rush. He worked with the second offense on Saturday during red zone drills and threw a five-yard checkdown to J.D. McKissic.

Once again, players were only in shells, but Rivera said Aug. 29 it was a "big step" for Smith's progress.

"Just the fact that he was doing something with 11 guys on the field at the same time I think is a big step in the direction that we all want to head," Rivera said Saturday. "We'll see how things unfold, we'll see how he does tomorrow, and we'll go from there."

Smith has taken massive leaps in his recovery since training camp began in July. After being cleared for football activity by his personal medical team, Smith was taken off the Physically Unable to Perform list Aug.16. He gradually made progress each week from participating in 7-on-7 drills to taking snaps in 9-on-9 drills and eventually 11-on-11 work. Smith has looked strong in the pocket, scrambled and has even taken a couple bumps from offensive linemen getting pushed back by pass rushers. His throws throughout all the drills have been quick, decisive and accurate.

The next step for Smith is to go through drills in full pads, but the media will not be able to see that with practices now being closed off after individual periods. Still, the fact that Smith has come this far is remarkable. The team will continue to monitor his progress, but Rivera said he would like to see Smith in a full drill soon.

"It's really just to gauge his confidence in himself," he said. "It's an opportunity for us to gauge where he is in terms of his total movement with 11 players on the field on both sides. So, we'll see how it goes. The hope is in the next few days we can just continue to progress with him."

QUICK HITS

Rivera has seen growth from Dwayne Haskins Jr.: Rivera has been challenging Haskins for months now, and he has pushed the young quarterback to step up, take charge of the offense and be a leader multiple times throughout his tenure. So far, Haskins has taken that charge head on and improved each day during camp. That growth has been apparent to Rivera.

"He's gotten a lot of good work in. He's worked with [quarterbacks coach] Ken Zampese and the other quarterbacks. You see the growth, you really do. Again, we still have a way to go, but it's promising. And that's probably the best thing you can say about it, too, that he's showing those moments that really tells you he's learning.

Haskins wants to show he can be a franchise quarterback: From the time he was drafted by Washington in 2019, Haskins has wanted to prove that he can be a franchise quarterback. He wants to show how much he loves the game and that he can be relied upon in key situations. Although Rivera said he is still learning, Haskins believes he can accomplish those things in Washington.

"I'm just trying to keep proving that and get into a game-like situation where I can showcase that. I'm looking forward to doing that and keep proving over and over again and be a guy in this area -- like I said, being from here -- that has a lot of pride for me. I'm just exciting to keep working and getting this thing rolling."

Chase Young turns into "something different" when he's on the field: Monday's practice was special for Chase Young, even though it was just a practice and there were no fans in the stands; it was the first time he entered FedExField as a member of the Washington Football team. Young said he tried to approach the practice like it was a game by trying to "get his mind right" for being in the locker room and warming up. When that happens, Young goes into "a different zone."

"When I put the helmet on, I'm not Chase Young anymore. I turn into something different. That's how I have to think about it. When you're on the bus, you're just locked in. You're focused. You're thinking about stuff I need to do; stay low, get off the ball, use my hands. Just little tips that I just keep in my mind so you know that first play going into the game. That's some of the things that I do."

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