Alumni, active players bridge the gap
On the final day of minicamp at Redskins Park, current players working through their final practice became the sideshow to the main event on the adjacent turf field.
Former players milled about next to the practice as part of an alumni event set up by General Manager Bruce Allen. They included a number of franchise greats such as Pat Fischer, Mark Moseley and Gary Clark, and Hall of Famers Sam Huff, Bobby Mitchell, Art Monk and Charley Taylor.
It is "a special time to bring back not only the legends of the game but some of the architects of the Washington Redskins that our fans have loved over the decades," Allen said. "They're great people and it's wonderful to have them."
Several former players reminisced about the culture at Redskins Park when they played, saying that it was commonplace for former players to interact with active ones.
Clark said he remembered coming into the weight room in his first seasons with the Redskins and running into former running back John Riggins, or talking to members of the Fun Bunch or Smurfs and picking up trade secrets. Monk said he spoke with Mitchell about his experiences as one of the first African Americans in football.
The opportunity for the two groups to mix could help the current team understand not just the history of the franchise, players said, but also what it takes to win.
"I think it's important for them to realize what they have and not take it for granted," Monk said. "I know when I came in, I came in with the Over the Hill Gang so I was familiar with the old guys - they don't like to be called 'old' - but the older guys and they would tell me stories about their past.
"...It's important for us to know that so we can appreciate what we have and I know that was the way it was for me and it's important for them to have that as well."
To many former players, the alumni event represented the long-overdue bridging of a gap that had formed between the Redskins' past and its present. In past years, players felt alienated from the team and some said they were "not welcome." Many praised Allen for the change, and said they felt it was a sign that the franchise was headed in the right direction.
"Bruce has done a good job of trying to put the guys back together again and trying to get us involved, because I don't think it's a secret that there's been a separation between the alumni and the organization for a number of years now," Moseley said.
"And when Bruce came in the first thing he did was give us a call and say, 'Hey guys we got to make the guys here realize the reason the fans are the fans that they are today is because of you guys and the history of the Redskins and how you guys took us to all those wins back in the '70s, '80s and '90s.' And he said, 'these guys haven't been winning for a long time and they've got to realize what it takes to be winners.' And so it's a good feeling to know the Redskins recognize us."
Owner Dan Snyder said he and Allen had talked about holding more alumni events and that Allen had suggested putting something together during a minicamp.
Snyder, who said he still has "Larry Brown's No. 43 shirt from when I was a kid" and joked he might try to get it autographed, also credited Allen for organizing the event.
"I think there's a conscious effort to organize it more," Snyder said. "And that's really where Bruce comes in. Bruce's organizational skills, his management skills, he's really focused on making sure things are a little bit more organized."
June 17, 2010; 5:41 PM ET
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