There were some noticeable changes to the Inova Sports Performance Center as Ryan Kerrigan arrived at the facility for the first time in months. There was a white trailer placed at the edge of the parking lot for COVID-19 testing, and everyone he interacted with was wearing a mask.
It's definitely different times, Kerrigan said, but he did spot some familiar faces among the small group of people filtering in and out of the trailer. He got to see Dwayne Haskins Jr., Brandon Scherff and Matt Ioannidis, all of whom, aside from Zoom meetings, he had not seen since the end of the 2019 season. He even met head coach Ron Rivera in person for the first time since Rivera was hired on New Year's Day.
"It's good to get back," Kerrigan told Senior Vice President of Media and Content Julie Donaldson.
Kerrigan and the rest of Washington's players began arriving in Ashburn last week to get tested and report for training camp. Most of them have spent the offseason away from their teammates, and many have yet to physically meet the new additions to the team. Now, with the 2020 season about six weeks away, they need to build a comradery in a drastically condensed time period.
"You have to get ready," said defensive tackle Jonathan Allen. "It's gonna be interesting to see where everyone's at."
Allen met with Ioannidis and No. 2 overall pick Chase Young after Day 1 of the NFL Draft in April, but he said he has not seen "99% of the guys since the last game of the season." He can't remember the last time he saw Rivera or defensive line coach Sam Mills III.
Players interacted with each other throughout the virtual offseason program, but that doesn't compare to the chemistry built by having face-to-face interactions. Still, Allen doesn't believe the time spent apart will impede on the bond he and his teammates have already established.
"Once you get back around it, you'll get back into it," he said. "What I always tell people at the end of the day is that we're professional athletes, and this isn't an ideal situation for anyone, but at the end of the day, it's a level playing field across the NFL."
While most players have spent the offseason in different parts of the country, Haskins stayed close to home and has worked out with several of his teammates, including Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims Jr., Antonio Gandy-Golden and Derrius Guice. The consensus among all of them is that they cannot wait to get back to the facility.
"They're just excited to get the ball rolling," Haskins said. "It's like a little kid getting ready for their first fall football season in little league, and you smell the grass when you walk up to the facility and it's just like, 'Man, I miss it.' I'm just looking forward to playing, and I know all of the guys are, too."
Haskins has already gotten to know some of the rookie class by helping them figure out their way around Ashburn and the surrounding area. The first group of players reported to training camp July 27, with quarterbacks, rookies and players returning from injury coming in for testing.
Haskins has also been impressed with his veteran teammates, noting that Ioannidis and Kerrigan look "fantastic." With the team a few weeks away from padded practices, he's anxious to see what everyone can accomplish.
"Just having those leaders like Ioannidis and Kerrigan and Scherff and Morgan [Moses] still on the team, and the infusion of new young talent and new additions on the roster, I'm excited for this year. I think we're going to do a good job."
There is still the question of how the players will perform without OTAs or minicamp, and Allen said he doesn't feel like anyone has an answer right now. The only way to find out is to get on the field.
"You're gonna find out real quick who's been training hard and who hasn't," Allen said. "As a pro athlete, it's your job regardless of what the condition is. It's gonna be a good time to see where everybody stands."
But Washington, along with every NFL team, still has some time before that can happen. This year's training camp will feature an acclimation period for strength and conditioning, followed by a four-day "ramp-up" period where players are allowed to wear helmets and shoulder pads without live contact.
Once those phases are completed, each team is allowed a maximum of 14 padded practices from Aug. 18 to Sept.6.
Kerrigan stressed the importance of being ready for Week 1 of the regular season "whether we've had OTAs, minicamps or nothing." It's time to get to work.
"We've gotta be ready for that. It's gonna take...all the guys to really focus in meetings, whether they're in person or Zoom. We've gotta focus, lock in. That way, when we're on the practice field, we're not wasting reps, we're not having to repeat things because we got an assignment wrong."