Return to story
Vonnie Holliday hopes
BY RICH CAMPBELL
This was supposed to be the week that the Washington Redskins returned to team headquarters to begin coach Mike Shanahan's "voluntary" offseason program. Players who scattered across the country to their offseason homes for an 11-week hiatus were scheduled to get reacquainted with their teammates in Ashburn and begin a strength and conditioning regimen that would ready them for spring practices.
The Redskins Park weight room, however, is quiet these days.
Players aren't allowed in the building because NFL owners locked them out on March 11. Coaches and other team employees are not allowed to even contact players. They can only exchange pleasantries if they see players around town--but even that interaction must be recorded in a log.
So the Redskins sit in a holding pattern, unable to work toward improving on last season's 6-10 record.
Instead, many players are working out on their own while hoping a federal judge in Minnesota sends them back to work on April 6 by issuing an injunction against the lockout.
"The level of uncertainty is what's getting us all," said defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday, the Redskins' player representative to the now-decertified players' union. "I know all the guys have questions like, 'What kind of time are we talking about? Is it a month, two months?' The bottom line is we really don't know. We have the court dates that are set in stone, but other than that, that's about it."
Missing time in the offseason program is a blow to a team that lost six games by four points or less last season.
The Redskins had hoped the league and players' union would avoid a work stoppage by reaching a new collective bargaining agreement by the March 4 deadline. That would have allowed them to spend the spring honing the offensive and defensive schemes they spent the last 12 months learning the basics of.
But instead of talking pass routes and coverages, players are preparing for an extended stalemate. Some team leaders, such as special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander, have started formulating plans to get players together for practices in or near Ashburn but away from team headquarters.
"We've thrown around some dates but haven't solidified anything yet," Alexander said. "We're just kind of waiting and seeing, and hopefully our planning is pointless and we'll get the injunction in our favor, and we'll be able to go back to work and get together."
No team workouts will take place until late next month at the earliest, Alexander said. In the meantime, players are continuing their normal offseason routines.
Left tackle Trent Williams is in Houston working out several times a week with a group of former University of Oklahoma teammates highlighted by Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson.
"I don't think nobody's doing anything different," Williams said. "You're basically just working with your trainer a little bit longer until the lockout ends. We're doing everything that correlates to football, just being ready, trying to be the best you can be."
Kicker Graham Gano has bounced between Florida and Northern Virginia, training regularly along the way. This is the first offseason in three years that he's been healthy, and he has taken advantage by gaining almost 10 pounds of muscle.
The lockout "is frustrating," Gano said. "Hopefully they'll figure it out all soon. You'd like to be working out with the guys at the facility, but that's not going to stop me from getting my lifts in."
Holliday is based in Atlanta in the offseason, and he has stayed busy keeping his teammates updated on developments in the labor battle.
He has spoken to everyone for whom he has a correct cellphone number, he said. Email notices have been another useful tool.
"The level of education, the awareness of what's going on has been unbelievable," Holliday said. "It's the reason why we didn't have to back down to the owners. We understand that this is part of the song and dance. Ultimately the fight is worth it. That's why we're staying the course, and it's important for us to stay united."
There are many issues about which both sides disagree, but there's one bottom line.
"On that Friday as the clock was winding down, it still came down to the money and how the revenue is going to be broken down," Holliday said.
About $9 billion per year to be more specific. And that's why players are optimistic that this won't drag into September and interfere with the regular season.
"The game expanded during the worst recession of all of our lives," receiver Anthony Armstrong said. "It would be complete ignorance and stupidity to not capitalize on it. What businessman would close their doors and miss out on all those earnings? It doesn't make sense, so I think something will happen in the end."
And when the two sides finally shake hands and owners reopen their doors, the Redskins intend to be ready to make up for lost time and take that step forward.
Rich Campbell: 540/735-1974