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Players Are 'Buying In' to Redskins' New Approach


Ninety percent of life is just showing up.

We owe Woody Allen a debt of gratitude for that piece of wisdom.

As week two of off-season workouts unfolds for the Redskins, the club is doing better than 90 percent because the players are not just showing up.

They're working quickly and efficiently under the tutelage of a new strength and conditioning staff. They're anxious to erase the past and get on with the future. They're hanging around, talking football, establishing better habits.

Now we will go Woody Allen one better. This is probably more Woody Hayes. Let's just say that 90 percent of whatever the Redskins hope to accomplish hinges on them buying in.

It's one thing to pop in at Redskins Park, stretch a little, enjoy the camaraderie and head home. It's easy to take in the changed and charged atmosphere and say, 'Wow, cool.'

It's another to accept the reality of the new, to understand the old ways and old days are gone.

Mike Shanahan honed a system of beliefs through his many years in coaching and one thing he dislikes intensely is waste. Don't waste time, effort or energy. That part has not been lost on the players as they zip through their sessions with Ray Wright, Malcolm Blacken and Chad Englehart in the weight room.

"Two hours a day, four days a week, with your teammates. I don't think that's too much to ask," Shanahan says.

It's not.

"You're in and you're out," marvels center Casey Rabach. As Shanahan points out, there are 168 hours in a week. Plenty of off left in the off-season.

"Guys are buying into what coach Shanahan is selling," says Wright, the head strength and conditioning coach.

Efficiency breeds precision. The Redskins sorely lacked that trait last year as they stumbled to a 4-12 record. Missed blocks, miscommunication, poor execution, all pointed to lack of precision and maybe a general state of mind.

They have to buy in. They need to accept greater demands on their time, their minds, their bodies. Or they cannot cash in.

"The guys have bought in. Look at the number of guys here working out," defensive lineman Phillip Daniels says. "Guys are tired of losing. I know I'm one of them. My career has been great but the one thing missing is the Super Bowl and that's why I'm still playing."

There are right ways of doing things and wrong ways and people who do the right things at practice tend to do them properly in games. Order breeds efficiency. Efficiency breeds precision.

Players crave discipline. They may not always like it but they honor it. They need to know what to do, how to do it and when to do it.

They don't wander into meetings leisurely when punctuality counts. They don't dawdle on the way to the practice field when sloth isn't tolerated. They will respect clear, fair boundaries, especially when they start to see results.


"It's time for guys to wake up and know this is football. Last year people got away with a lot of stuff they shouldn't have got away with," says Daniels, going into his 15th year in the NFL.

"Right now I don't think the coaches have to do a whole lot to get people to buy in. We were 4-12. I've been here seven years, playoffs twice, second round once. With a 4-12 record it doesn't take much to get guys to buy in."

Even before the line suffered its plague of injuries last season, no one would describe the offense's execution as crisp. Receivers lined up in the wrong place. Pro Bowl players failed to communicate and missed critical blocks. (Remember the goal line play in the loss at Detroit?)

No team ever plays the perfect game, but shouldn't that always be its intent?

Winning isn't an accident. Coaches love to say that luck is the residue of design. So is consistent excellence and this is where it is bred.

"You can sense the excitement," says linebacker London Fletcher. "Everybody is excited about being here working, about working and preparing to win."

Woody Allen helped out at the start of this piece. Let Strother Martin's great line from "Cool Hand Luke" finish it. As Martin told Paul Newman, who played the raffish, nearly-unbreakable title character: "You're gonna get your mind right."

Show up. Get your mind right. Buy in. The price is right.

Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at and follow him on

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