ASHBURN — After captains led the rest of the team in stretches, the music cut out and it was down to business.
The Washington Redskins huddled up before practice began, did sprints before leaving the field and it was clear that Club Jay is over and Camp Callahan is here.
Interim coach Bill Callahan on Wednesday ran his first practice since replacing Jay Gruden and made some fairly significant chances he hopes can end Washington’s winless season. Among them were the addition of officials to call penalties, a faster tempo and a focus on conditioning to fix some of his team’s second-half struggles.
“It’s really the focus of fundamental football: just really trying to get back to some really hardcore fundamentals,” Callahan said.
One criticism of Gruden during his tenure was he was too lenient on players and didn’t adequately prepare them. Far more goes into the 0-5 start, but Callahan appears eager to crack the whip and put a focus on accountability.
Part of that is cutting down on penalties after 45 accepted for 331 yards in the first five weeks contributed to the team’s worst start since 2001. Callahan put a call into the NFL office to find some local college officials being groomed for the pro game and hopes their presence at practice transfers over Sunday in Miami and beyond.
Every drill went quicker than under Gruden, and that emphasis wasn’t lost on players.
“It was definitely a more up-tempo practice, faster practice, more plays than last time,” defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said.
The league in recent years has limited padded practices and contact on non-game days, but Callahan is an old-school coach who last ran a pro team with the Oakland Raiders in 2002 and 2003. He spent time at Nebraska after that, though Allen said Callahan would fit in well at Alabama because of his work ethic and mentality.
That mentality is to turn up the physicality several notches above where it was with Gruden in charge.
”Guys didn’t have a problem with it,” Allen said. “He’s a very passionate, energetic coach who’s going to bring the physicality every day. That’s what kind of team we’re going to be on Sunday.”
Callahan gave more snaps to rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins even after ruling out the first-round pick from starting at Miami. He refused to name a starter between Case Keenum and Colt McCoy, citing health concerns, though each was a full participant in practice.
”It was a good work day,” Callahan said. “Some of the structure was different, some of the team periods and how we did a lot of them — just little tweaks here and there. I think all good stuff to keep us all together and keep us accountable.”