A visit to Richmond finds a quarterback who isn’t resting on his laurels—or his hefty one-year salary—as he tries to bring his team back to the playoffs. Plus thoughts on The MMQB Camp Training Camp Tour so far 

By Tim Rohan
August 03, 2016

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RICHMOND, Va. — Whenever practice ends here and the players start the long walk from the fields to the team facility, Kirk Cousins removes his jersey and sprints in. He’s got film to watch, meetings to attend, weights to lift. He’s got work to do to improve as a quarterback, and, if he walks instead of sprints, that’s time he’s wasting not improving. 

“I’ve just got places to be, things to do. Don’t have a lot of time to dawdle,” Cousins said. “There are very few free hours [during camp], and I need to maximize them all I can.”

Cousins fidgeted and shifted his weight as he spoke, as his teammates filed past into the facility to do their work. He had stopped for a 10-minute interview after Tuesday’s walk-through, on his way inside. Media obligations come with the territory now, after Cousins usurped Robert Griffin III to become the next franchise quarterback, after he led Washington to the 2015 NFC East title, and after the team gave him the Franchise Tag (a one-year, $19.95 million deal). Had Washington not, Cousins arguably would’ve been the most sought after quarterback on the free agent market. Brock Osweiler, the Broncos backup quarterback, received a four-year, $72 million deal from the Texans. Cousins would’ve gotten more.

Step aside, please: Kirk Cousins has made a habit of sprinting off the practice fields at Washington’s training camp.
John McDonnell / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Washington offered Cousins a long-term deal, but he declined, he said, because accepting that offer “didn’t seem to make sense with the way the market is.” Instead, Cousins decided instead to play this season under the one-year Franchise Tag, bet that he would be able to improve upon his 2015 campaign, and, he said, “keep my options open” for 2017.

“In the NFL it’s really one-year deals every year, for everybody,” Cousins said. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt comfortable. They’re always looking to replace you with somebody. There’s someone coming. There’s someone on your heels. They may or may not be on your team. It may not be apparent to the outside. But you’re always being evaluated. You have to continue to produce. No matter the roster, or my role, I feel like I have to keep pushing.”

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For the first time since Cousins entered the league, in 2012, one would imagine this would be the first time he wasn’t looking over his shoulder. But at heart, Cousins is still the kid who was overlooked as a high school recruit, the quarterback who slid to the fourth round, the guy fighting in camp just to make the last roster spot.

Even though Cousins has established himself, he still has a chip on his shoulder leftover from all those years of being overlooked. Like how Tom Brady continues to use his draft slide as motivation after four Super Bowl wins. When Washington picked Cousins in the same draft it had traded up to pick Griffin, Cousins said he knew “there would be no competition.”           

“My dad always told me,” Cousins said, “going back to high school: ‘The cream always rises to the top. If you’re good enough, you’ll get your chance. If you’re not good enough, you have to live with that. But in time, if you’re good enough, you’ll get your chance.’ I’ve gotten my chance, and I’ll have some chances going forward, and the key is to make good on them.”

Wanting to make good on this next chance, this offseason Cousins met with quarterback guru Jon Gruden and his former coaches at Michigan State. He took detailed notes of last year’s film, took measured account of his strengths and weaknesses, and spoke with his offensive coordinator Sean McVay about taking Washington’s offense to the next level.

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Cousins sounded excited about the potential of the Redskins’ offense. Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Matt Jones, and Josh Doctson—Cousins will have no shortage of offensive weapons at his disposal.         

Near the end of the interview, as Cousins went on again about how he felt he had to prove himself every year, one of his teammates stopped on his way into the facility. He stood across from Cousins, copying his mannerisms, pretending to impersonate Cousins as a joke.

“‘They gave me $19 million …’” his teammate said, smiling and gesturing.

Cousins smiled at first, too, and then his voice trailed off. His expression hardened. He realized how long he’d been talking. He had film to watch, meetings to attend, weights to lift. Thanks for your time, but he had to go. He had work to do that couldn’t wait anymore.

* * *

An abbreviated practice left no time to collect more observations about Washington. So instead of the normal “Five Things I Thought About Washington Camp” section, we’ll audible and go with... 

Five Things I Think About This Damn Road Trip

1. If you’re visiting Ravens camp or live in the general Baltimore area, go to L.P. Steamer’s for dinner, get a pile of steamed crabs, and thank The MMQB later. It’s the kind of place where they cover the table in paper because they’re just going to throw the crabs in front of you. So good. If you can, get a table on the rooftop, overlooking downtown Baltimore.  

2. If you’re visiting Redskins camp, go to “Lunch. Supper!” in Richmond. The MMQB had a great lunch there on Tuesday; everyone raved about the pulled pork, especially. Delicious Southern food. And if the lunch was great, I’m sure the “Supper!” is as good or better.             

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3. One of the essentials to The MMQB Training Camp Tour is having a cooler in the van to keep our drinks cold. At the outset of the trip, we decided that a Styrofoam cooler would be sufficient, but this has proven to be a grave mistake. Almost immediately once ice was added to said cooler, it started leaking in the van. Just now, on Tuesday afternoon, we stopped to get another Styrofoam cooler, in which to place the original leaky Styrofoam cooler, and Jenny Vrentas has just alerted everyone that the double cooler is now leaking, too. Please send help. We may just splurge on a plastic cooler.     

4. John DePetro, our video maestro, does an amazing Jon Snow impersonation. I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but I’ve been told it’s amazing by people who’ve watched the show. Well, Kalyn Kahler says it’s a good impersonation and she’s watched at least two episodes. The impersonation is so great that Joe Flacco, a big GOT fan, could hardly stop himself from laughing as John did his impersonation on a SnapChat video on Monday. In a related note, you should really be following our SnapChat @TheMMQB.   

5. We’ve been in this van for four days now, and no one has gone stir crazy, yet, I don’t think. But we’ve decided to push the issue by broadcasting our entire day Wednesday from Falcons camp on Facebook Live. Come see what it’s like waking up in a hotel room with Peter King. Have breakfast with The MMQB. Watch me nap in the backseat of the van. Follow The MMQB as we interview players and, later, eat peanuts at a minor league baseball game. We’ll talk football in between and have a few surprises, too. Don’t know if I’m at liberty to reveal them. It’ll be the closest thing to the Truman Show since the Truman Show, or something like that. 

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.  

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