Football is back.
Most of the Washington Commanders' draft class -- Quan Martin was excused for personal reasons -- along with 12 undrafted free agents and 35 tryouts were out in the sun for the first practice of rookie minicamp.
Were there some slipups? Of course there were; this was the first time all these young players were on the same field, so mistakes were unavoidable. But there were also some positive moments from draft picks, college free agents and tryout players alike.
Here's a look at some of the highlights from the afternoon:
-- We had our first pick from Emmanuel Forbes today, and it was a glimpse at why the Commanders drafted him. Forbes stepped in front of quarterback Tim DeMorat's pass intended for Kyric McGowan, secured the pass in stride and began sprinting for the end zone. The play was blown dead before he could get too far downfield, but there's a chance Forbes could have taken it all the way back.
-- Here's one other note on Forbes: he was playing exclusively in the slot today. That shouldn't be an indicator of Forbes' role during the season, but it was interesting to see him play in a position besides on the outside.
-- The chances of a tryout player making the roster are slim, but if there was any of them that improved their chances, it was Hampton's Jadakis Bonds. He made several impressive catches, including one in tight coverage over cornerback Nick Whiteside. Bonds, a four-year contributor for the Pirates in college, amassed 2,731 yards and 34 touchdowns in his career.
-- Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy wasn't vocal for the entire practice, but there were some moments when he made his presence known. He would shout at the quarterback and center to control and tighten the huddle, but the most common thing he would say is for his players to finish.
-- Here are a few highlights plays from the afternoon: KJ Henry used his speed to breeze past Drew Himmelman during team drills. Bowie State defensive end Joshua Pryor had a batted down pass in the latter portion of practice, and Whiteside nearly had an interception during the first 11-on-11 period.
-- Practice ended on a solid note for the offense. On the last play of the day, former Bowie State quarterback DJ Golatt heaved a pass downfield to Jalen Sample, who was locked in tight coverage. Despite a defensive back being draped on him, Sample pulled down the pass, which caused the offensive players to cheer.
-- Here are a few quotes from Ron Rivera during his press conference:
-- On what he is looking for from rookie minicamp.
"First of all, first opportunity to see them in a football environment, you know, on the field. I'm looking forward to that this afternoon. More so than this morning because this was really just walkthrough, installation, try and get these guys familiarized with some of our basic stuff so that they can go out and perform quickly. For us, we really wanna watch how they react to what they're seeing, how their retention is and then just some guys making plays in terms of some of the receivers, some of the defensive backs.
-- On what message he gives to the rookies as they start out their NFL career:
"More than anything else is pay attention. Be very attentive, pay attention. That's probably the biggest thing because one thing a coach wants to do is he wants to make sure he feels that what he's telling the young man, he's listening to, he's hearing and he's understanding. I tell 'em, if you're not sure, ask straight up, ask and that's all right. You know, if you're not sure, it just shows that you wanna make sure you know what you're doing.
-- On when he knows that a rookie has gotten comfortable:
"I think some of the things that you anticipate in seeing growth from some of these guys is how you get to know them. You know that they're getting it just from the questions that they've asked and then the way they handle certain situations out on the field. You watch a guy through walkthrough and he may make a mistake, he gets corrected and then that same play comes up again during walkthrough and automatically he knows and he'll say something that kind of reassures you that he's gotten it. Those things are important. We pay attention to those little details with a lot of these young guys."