By mid-afternoon on Monday, Redskins Park had become noticeably quiet. Redskins players had cleaned out their lockers, packed their bags and loaded their cars and trucks with belongings.
Clinton Portis stopped to autograph a jersey for Ladell Betts, then headed off to the airport to go home to Miami.
Randy Thomas and Chris Samuels chatted with reporters, then headed off to a local restaurant for lunch.
Ray Brown collected four Redskins 2005 media guides for posterity, then headed off to retirement.
The offseason has officially begun for a Redskins team that remains upbeat after making the playoffs for the first time since 1999. The Redskins went on to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17-10 in the Wild Card round. Last Saturday, the ride ended with a 20-10 defeat at Seattle in the Divisional Playoffs round.
Despite the success, players emphasized there is more to accomplish. They have not reached the ultimate goal.
Several players expressed their 2006 goal to be winning home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even though both the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears lost over the weekend--despite having home field and a bye--teams with those advantages typically go deeper into the postseason.
"I think overall, when you go from last year to this year and what we went through, you have to appreciate it," Portis said. "But going into the offseason, we have to know that there is a lot more we can do and that we want to do. I think this season was a good positive step, but we'd like to still be playing right now."
Added right tackle Jon Jansen: "We've really set ourselves up for a good stretch here. We've accomplished a lot this year. We set a good foundation and that's something we can build on."
At noon on Monday, coaches and players got together for one last team meeting in the Redskins Park auditorium.
Head coach Joe Gibbs said he had identified his "core group" of 15 players that the team has built its foundation around. He hopes to keep that core group together for the long term.
"In general, it was a meeting where I tried to convey to them what I thought of them and what the coaching staff thought of them," Gibbs said. "I had a chance to meet with a number of players afterwards.
"I told them that with the core group that we have here, our goal now would be to try to keep everybody together. That is my job and I started early this morning."
Gibbs also reiterated that he expects to fulfill the remaining three years on the five-year contract he signed to coach the club in January 2004. He admitted that the long season does take a toll, but he is also eager to get to work on evaluating the team's list of free agents, as well as prospective free agents on other teams.
The first offseason priority for Gibbs? Retaining his coaching staff.
Assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams signed a contract extension last week. Other teams have already inquired about hiring some of the team's assistant coaches, Gibbs said.
"That'll be one of the first things that we address," Gibbs said. "I think you're always concerned about losing [assistant coaches]. But I feel good about what we have here to offer. I think they understand the ownership. I think they feel like we got something going here, too. I think we'll be in a real good position there to hold our guys."
So when does Redskins football start again?
Teams are permitted to ask players to participate in offseason workouts starting on March 20. Gibbs said that, for him, that return date is flexible since the team had two extra work weeks with the playoffs.
"I am going to take a long, hard look at when we think we should start up," Gibbs said.