Bruce Allen talks teamwork
Redskins GM Bruce Allen went to Spingarn High Wednesday afternoon to address about 175 high school football players as part of an NFL player development program. Standing in the Spingarn gym, in front of paintings of Dave Bing, Elgin Baylor and Sherman Douglas, Allen went right into his main message.
"You don't have to go to Harvard, you don't have to go anywhere to learn this," he told the kids. "We look for people who are good teammates."
Allen said Redskins officials spent more time interviewing Trent Williams's Oklahoma teammates than they did talking to the left tackle himself, since teamwork trumps talent in his eyes. And in describing what makes a good teammate, Allen used two words over and over: accountability and dependability. You have to know the man next to you will be there for you, and will come through. That's the first thing the Redskins demand from prospective players, he said, "because that's what matters. Everyone has talent. Everyone has talent. Do they have the heart to be a great teammate?...
"Too many times you guys get to see the wrong messages coming out of our game and out of the other major league sports," Allen told the kids. "But if you get a chance to meet a London Fletcher, a Donovan McNabb -- these guys are superior teammates. They want to help the other person succeed. And that's what we're looking for: the dependability and the accountability of those people."
Well, you couldn't really listen to that talk without wondering about Albert Haynesworth, could you?
"This is early in the offseason program," Allen told reporters after the event. "And Albert's demonstrated he's an excellent player in the NFL. We're really concentrating on trying to make sure on Monday we get better in our OTA."
So, is there a risk of Haynesworth dividing this team?
"I'm not concerned about the chemistry of this team," Allen said. "Our team has been very committed this entire offseason program. They're all running at about 98 percent of the program, and we're proud of it, and we start some OTAs next week."
Joking aside, Allen is an impressive speaker. He stood there without notes, and he got the room's attention, never stumbling over his words and never once resembling a poor sports-talk radio host. It was a talk that Vinny Cerrato simply could not have executed.
"I want to thank you, I want you to be proud of the Redskins this year," he told the players. "We've got a new coach, a new direction, and I think you're gonna like the football we're playing."
After the event, I asked him why this was important, for local kids to be proud of the Redskins.
"I think our organization is uniquely positioned to help the entire community, and we're gonna do everything we can to reach back out to the community, get them involved with this team," Allen said. "And I know our players will respond. We're the Washington Redskins. It's a globally known brand. We're in the nation's capital. And there's some duties that come with that. And these young men will look up to our players."
Allen had also told the kids -- who hailed from DCIAA and WCAC schools -- how he went to school in Northern Virginia, and how "y'all schools kicked my ass." I asked him afterward whether he remembered NFL speakers coming to his gym at Langley.
"Yeah, my dad," he laughed, telling a few reporters how the former Redskins coach addressed the Saxons at graduation. "He talked about work and work ethic and dedication to whatever field we chose to go in to," Allen said.
And was that weird to see his father as his commencement speaker?
"No," Allen said. "It just meant I had to behave more. Because they put you alphabetically, and Allens were in the front row, so I couldn't be playing around like everyone else."
Someone asked whether these high school players had any sense of who Bruce Allen's dad was.
"I think a great part of the Redskins franchise is the tradition is so rich," Allen said. "And when you talk to fans, they talk about the previous years. You know, we're a product of the great success from Lombardi, dad, Coach Gibbs, and on. And we've got to carry that torch for the future generations."
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