William Jackson III has never been a part of anything quite like it. He only signed with the Washington Football Team two months ago, and yet his new teammates are already greeting him as soon as he walks in the room and treating him like family.
"Walking into an organization like that," Jackson told reporters after Washington wrapped up its first day of OTAs, "you can't help but to build off positivity, and I'm excited to just be a part of this group."
This is part of what head coach Ron Rivera was talking about when promised to build a sustainable, winning culture in Washington. Sure, that means getting more wins on the field and hopefully more playoff appearances, but it also includes building a foundation on the shoulders of tough, young players who do not shy away from competition.
The work Rivera put in to make that a reality last year is paying off now, and the new additions to the team are loving it.
"I think there is a good energy here," said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. "There is this youthful exuberance around the building. You have guys out there barking and making noise. I think it is a lot of fun to get into competitive environments and start to grow as a unit."
There are plenty of personalities on Washington's squad, but one common trait everyone shares is that they are not afraid of hard work. It's one of the first things that Jackson noticed about the rest of the cornerbacks on the roster. He and the rest of the position are part of a group chat, and while this portion of OTAs are considered voluntary, the overwhelming consensus was that they would all show up. Rivera believes the players view it as an opportunity to develop and come together, and he's pleased with the results.
"I feel like everybody just wanted to get better," Jackson said. "Mostly everybody in the room is new, so we need to build that chemistry."
It seems that same thought was shared across the entire team, as most of Washington's roster was present Tuesday morning. What's more, every player was giving full effort, which clearly stood out to Fitzpatrick.
"Just from watching today and watching guys work, there is such a good willingness to these guys to put in the work and want to learn," Fitzpatrick said. "That gets me excited. It gets me excited to be a part of this team and doing the best I can to help us win on Sunday's."
The Washington Football Team began its OTAs Tuesday morning with the majority of its roster coming to Inova Sports Performance Center to meet their new teammates and improve their technique. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
Tempo -- another one of Rivera's focus points -- was high throughout practice. Contact was kept to a minimum, as most of Washington's goals during this period center around developing technique, but players still found ways to compete within the rules.
It was also an opportunity for the veterans to set the tone to the rookies and new additions. Rivera recalled one specific exchange where one player told a rookie, "Hey, we don't walk around here.
"I think the guys are understanding that if you want to play fast you have to practice fast," Rivera said. "This is as good of a simulation as you can get."
Even in a dialed back scenario, all the players know they are competing for a roster spot. However, that doesn't stop them from trying to help each other improve. That's the mindset that the entire team shares, Jackson said, and everyone has an encouraging attitude. A prime example of that came when rookie Darrick Forrest grabbed an interception off a tipped pass, which caused the defense to run onto the field and celebrate.
"We just want everyone to play good, whoever steps on the field."
Rivera wants to fill his roster with winners, but that extends far beyond the results on the scoreboard. It involves finding players who can create the right atmosphere and put the team above themselves. Washington started that growth last season, and the next step is for its players to sustain that progress.
Based on how some of the newcomers have reacted, it's safe to say that's taken care of.
"I am really excited to be here," Fitzpatrick said, "and that excitement has just grown since I've gotten around everybody. "