As the Redskins move through training camp, defensive end Ricky Jean Francois is seeing the level of competition rise with each passing practice.
Even though the Redskins are putting in work every day in training camp, that doesn't mean the players can't have any fun out on the field during walkthroughs and practices.
Most of the time, it's the levity that makes the days and practices go faster, courtesy of guys like defensive end Ricky Jean Francois, who knows how to approach a training camp with this one being his eighth in the NFL since coming out of LSU.
"I just use my personality," Jean Francois said. "I just come out when we're doing something good, I'm going to have fun. [When] we're doing something bad, or something we need to improve on, believe me I'm going to open my mouth, because at the end of the day, I know I've been on [a] team before [that's] been to the Super Bowl, I've been on team[s] [when] they've been on the AFC/NFC championship, I know it's the little things that count. I understand the big things [are what] people want to look at, but it's the little things that count to get us to Houston [Super Bowl LI]."
It may be hot in Richmond, Va., but it's not keeping the fans away from training camp, nor is it keeping the players from giving it all they have on every single snap.
Having been born and raised in Miami has given Jean Francois a much-needed leg up on dealing with the blazing sun and humidity that greets him, his teammates and their coaches once they walk through the back doors of the training facility and out to the practice fields.
"This isn't hot believe me," Jean Francois said with a smile. "I sit on top of the turf with the heat index about 110-105 around 1-2 o'clock in Miami. The heat doesn't bother you, but we need this heat, we need this type of weather so it can mess with you mentally. Physically, it's going to beat up on you, but that's just the sun, but mentally, that's when [head coach] Jay [Gruden] wants to see the football players he has. Is it going to make us fight, is it going to make us quit, is it going to make us start making mistakes? We got to be able to play through this heat, its heat! It's going to be here regardless, whether we're here or not, so we got to play through it."
There's already been some jawing and chippy play going on in the practices, which actually is a good thing, because it shows that the players are very serious about what's going on once the ball is hiked, and, to borrow a term from cornerback Josh Norman, the "live-action bullets" start flying.
Check out behind the scenes images from Defensive End, Ricky Jean Francois's 2016 Redskins Photo Shoot.
"We're competing," Jean Francois said. "We need to get that condition in there, we need that physical, 'we're getting after each other, we compete each and every other day,' we need that. Even with [quarterback] Kirk [Cousins], he needs that each day. He needs to see us running at him, even though we cant hit him though but he needs to see guys running around, and needs to see where the protection [is], and everything like that, so even when we go through [the] walkthrough[s], he makes sure he pays attention to every detail of everything, so when he comes out here during practice he can be successful. Sometimes we're going to give him a hard time but those hard times for him out here will make it easy for him on Sundays."
There's no backstabbing or any other negative feelings running through the locker room when players clash with each other. As Jean Francois says, it just comes in the heat of the moment, then it's squashed for good.
"We still go to the meal room, sit in there, look and see what's on TV," Jean Francois said. "Sometimes we'll change the channel when we don't want to look at sports, when we want to see what's going on in the world. [We'll] sit in each others rooms, play spades, joke on each other, clown, [go to] Waffle House [or] Jamaican House, some guys want to tour Richmond. I [still] got to tour Richmond, because I haven't even seen it myself, the whole city. All of us are close. All of us are cool. Sometimes you may hear us barking at each other on the field but that's just what's in us. We got to bark at one another. We respect one another so we got to get at one another."
The depth along the Redskins defensive line seems limitless. Being able to have the level of talent they have on the defensive front allows defensive line coach Robb Akey to scheme things up any number of ways in order to gain the competitive advantage over opposing offensive lines.
"We can move everywhere, we can play everywhere," Jean Francois said. "It doesn't matter what you ask us to do, anybody can do it, and everybody's athletic enough to do it. It probably may give teams a difficult thing, [because] they wont be able to get that hand on you like that 90 number here, that 90 number there, we can move around all day so that'll be one thing in the game plan they have to throw out trying to pick out where we're sitting at."