Ryan Kerrigan’s first practice with the Washington Redskins will forever carry an asterisk. It was a 95-minute informal session Tuesday morning at a Northern Virginia high school instead of at Redskins Park. Players wore T-shirts and gym shorts instead of jerseys and helmets. No coaches were present; only veterans guiding him through the playbook.
All those quirks didn’t bother Kerrigan, though. While the NFL lockout prevented something more official and conventional, he and nine other rookies were content simply to join their veteran teammates and get their professional careers started.
“We just want to play football, and we’re taking the steps to get there,” said Kerrigan the Redskins‘ first-round pick. “It’s good that we’re all able to get out here, the rookies included, to start being a part of the team and get a taste of the NFL.”
Kerrigan was one of 41 Redskins that attended the first of three players-only informal practices scheduled for this week. Players performed position drills, seven-on-seven work and, perhaps most importantly, brought 10 of the club’s 12 draft picks into the fold.
The lockout has prevented normal offseason practices under the watch of coaches at team headquarters, but a few veterans organized these workouts to try to salvage something from the offseason.
“You have to applaud the players for getting us together and bringing us rookies up here to actually learn the playbook,” fifth-round rookie receiver Niles Paul said. “It’s actually helping us out a lot. It’s definitely a fun time.”
Receiver Leonard Hankerson, running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster, defensive backs DeJon Gomes and Brandyn Thompson, offensive lineman Maurice Hurt, linebacker Markus White and nose tackle Chris Neild were the rookies that joined Kerrigan and Paul at the practice.
Second-round defensive end Jarvis Jenkins and sixth-round receiver Aldrick Robinson were the only two rookies absent. Robinson missed the session after his flight was canceled because of bad weather Monday. He is expected to attend Wednesday’s practice.
There’s a significant risk involved with participating because any injuries suffered at these workouts would be classified as a non-football injury. That especially applies to the rookies, none of whom are under contract.
However, those who attended were eager to start learning plays and bonding with teammates.
“The turnout is good,” said veteran linebacker London Fletcher, who helped organize the workouts. “Guys are coming from all over the country, coming out trying to get acclimated to what we’re doing. Especially for the young guys, they’re behind the 8-ball a little bit because they’re not going to have those [organized team activities] and the minicamps like we’d normally have.”
There was a typical amount of head-scratching among the rookies on their first day. Kerrigan picked up a playbook in late April during the few hours that an appeals court lifted the lockout, but other rookies had not been exposed to the full repertoire of plays. Many stood off to the side and watched veterans go through team drills.
One silver lining, though, was that players could work out their first-day jitters without having to impress coaches.
“It’ll be a lot less cursing [when real practices start], I know that,” White cracked. “For the most part I feel like it’s a pressure-free practice and everybody is here to get better.”
Kerrigan made a positive impression on veterans with his ability to retain information.
He will transition from the defensive end position he played at Purdue to outside linebacker with the Redskins. He took an important step by lining up on the left side, turning his back to the line of scrimmage and dropping into coverage.
“Having the playbook and being able to run through the plays out here, not just read them but actually physically go through them, is really helpful,” Kerrigan said. “If we keep doing this, I feel like I’ll be pretty well prepared.”