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Training Camp Notebook: Heading To New England

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Antonio Gibson follows his blocker for a gain during practice. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.

There's about two days between now and when Washington kicks off its first preseason game against the Patriots, and with the team taking a couple days off after Thursday, that means Tuesday was the last practice of the week and ended things about an hour early.

For the past two days, Washington has been focusing on its gameday prep. Ron Rivera said the game plan will be limited on both sides of the ball, although there's still plenty of things for him and the other coaches to evaluate, such as communication and how the team gels together.

Here are some notes and quotes from today.

-- Like Monday, there wasn't much competition between the starting offense and defense. They were more concerned with running through their scripts against the scout team. There was, however, a team session near the end of practice. It started out with three consecutive plays by Antonio Gibson that showed off his versatility. The first was a routine run up the middle for a decent gain. The next was a dump off catch by Ryan Fitzpatrick and the next was a reception on a crossing route. Gibson won't be asked to do anything too complex against the Patriots, although it's clear he's getting more comfortable using all his tools to the offense's benefit.

-- Breaking news: Kendall Fuller is still one of the most reliable defensive backs if the team needs to force a turnover. Fitzpatrick wrapped up his series with a shot to the end zone. More often than not, his targets have been the ones who come down with the ball. This time, though, it was Fuller who made the athletic leap and snagged the interception in the back of the end zone. Fuller tied a career-high with four picks last year; he was even tied for the most interceptions in the league early in the season. It seems like he has eyes on an encore performance in 2021.

-- Washington didn't have a chance to experience live tackling until Week 1 last season. This year will obviously be a little different with three opportunities to play against another team. Rivera sees something to be gained from that; he wants his players getting more acclimated to taking and giving out hits. Padded practices are more aggressive, but contact is more of a "thud" than bringing people to the ground. The sooner the players get that initial shock of a first hit out of their system, the more prepared they'll be when it counts.

-- Matt Ioannidis was back on the field today after spending previous practices working off to the side with trainers. He said he feels good about his progress so far and believes he'll be back to a full go soon. He's mostly been focused on improving his conditioning and endurance before he gets back in the full swing of things. Ioannidis was one of Washington's most valuable pass-rushers in 2019 and his teammates are excited to have him back. It shouldn't be long now before he's back to putting pressure on quarterbacks.

-- Rivera dropped a fantastic quote as he was leaving his press conference. He said he was having a conversation with Michael Jordan when they were both playing in Chicago when the six-time NBA champion said, "If you watch when it comes down to clutch time, who comes to the ball hard?" It's indicative of the situation Rivera and the coaches will find themselves in during Thursday's game. There might not be anything flashy in the game plan, but they will be watching to see how the players are performing and, more importantly, who will step up in key moments.

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