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Number 94 Daron Payne// Photo: courtesy of NFL Washington Redskins

Redskins Rookie No More: Daron Payne Back for Season Two

Lest any Washington Redskins fans think defensive tackle Daron Payne was born with superhuman strength, here’s his real secret: hard work, and a lot of it. It’s a testament to the 22-year-old’s tenacity and humility to hear him talk about the beginning of his football career.

“I wasn’t strong at all going into high school,” Payne says. “But when I got in the weight room and stayed in the weight room, it just took off from there. Once I started training and lifting every day, I think it just started translating onto the field.”

The 6-foot-3, 320-pound nose tackle grew up in Birmingham, Alabama where he attended Shades Valley High School. Payne was rated as a five-star recruit and committed to play for the Crimson Tide at the University of Alabama under legendary head coach Nick Saban.

Payne made his mark at Alabama too. This is no small feat considering the team has ruled college football for the last 10 years, winning five national titles since 2009, two of them with Payne. In his junior year, he was voted defensive MVP of both the Sugar Bowl and the National Championship Game. After the season ended, he announced that he would enter the 2018 NFL Draft, where the Redskins drafted him in the first round.

Payne says the biggest change in coming to DC is “being away from everybody that I know,” but he happened to land on the team
with the most former University of Alabama players in the NFL. The Redskins have six former Bama players on their current roster including Payne, and another two on injured reserve and the practice squad. He says having other Bama players on the team helped with the transition from college to pro.

“I could just ask them about how things are and the whole process. They guided me through my first year in the NFL, so it made the whole thing easier.”

Payne says he still keeps in touch with other former Crimson Tide players across the NFL too, not just Redskins players.

“All of us keep in touch and hang out when we get the chance.”

The defensive tackle’s sense of community extends beyond football to volunteer efforts. During the offseason, Payne had a chance to make a trip to Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia to bring attention to the Army base’s new dental clinic and meet some fans. He also hosted a back-to-school giveaway in Birmingham, giving out backpacks and other school supplies to kids in need.

“I really didn’t get a chance to [give back during] my rookie year because I was just trying to dedicate all that time to training,” he says. “I definitely just wanted, with the off-time that I had, to do a little something that I could to give back.”

Now that the 2019-2020 season is in full swing, Payne is sure to be busy training and playing hard for the Redskins at every upcoming game.
At a recent press conference, head coach Jay Gruden spoke glowingly of Payne’s talent and determination, ruminating on what gains he has made after his rookie season.

“I have high expectations for Payne,” Gruden says. “I think he has high expectations for himself, as does everybody else in this locker room. He’s a guy that works extremely hard. He’s stronger, he’s quicker and I think he’s got a chance to be one of the dominant linemen in pro football if he keeps on this track. It’s very exciting to watch him play. He’s excellent against the run, he’s powerful, he can rush the passer – and we like him.”

High praise for Payne, who works hard to take every opportunity as it comes.

“I just try to go game by game,” he says. “[I’m] just trying to have my best game every game.”

Check out the Redskins’ October home games on Sunday, October 6 at 1 p.m. against the New England Patriots and Sunday, October 20 at 1 p.m. against the San Francisco 49ers. Find out more at www.redskins.com.

FedExField: 1600 Fedex Way, Landover, MD; 301-276-6000; www.redskins.com

Courtesy of the Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins Score Major Fan Experience Upgrades for the 2019-2020 Season

Watching DC’s football team play their division rival in a picturesque suite setting at FedExField really put how sweet the stadium is in perspective. There’s an endless amount of mouth-watering food to choose from, local brews that hit close to home such as Port City Optimal Wit and Devils Backbone’s #ATTR the brewing company’s exclusive golden ale made just for the Redskins and seriously good views no matter where you’re seated. Whether you go to Redskins games all the time or you’re looking forward to your first game-day experience at FedExField, get ready to be blown away by the impressive 2019-2020 season offerings that the Washington Redskins home stadium has to offer.

The custom upgrades to FedExField are largely based on fan feedback, from heightened tailgate experiences to exclusive access to once hidden parts of the stadium. How does the home of the Redskins cater to DC’s fan base all the way in Landover, MD? To improve, at the end of each season, the Redskins organization holds a series of focus groups to hear about attendee experiences, which point them in the right direction for what exactly fans want. On Tap got an exclusive deep-dive tour of FedExField from Chris Bloyer, senior vice president of operations and guest experience for the Washington Redskins, who proudly went in-depth on exciting offerings for fans in the new season.

OT: Let’s talk about Redskins Gold, the new season ticket member club. What exclusive access does this offer fans during their game-day experience?
Chris Bloyer: Redskins Gold, our new comprehensive membership program, was designed to give our fans unprecedented experiences, amenities and benefits all year long. As a member, you will receive exclusive access from the minute you enter FedExField to the time you leave the game, including member-only entrances and concession lines, upgraded parking, preferred concession and shop pricing, as well as priority access to events, tickets and rewards throughout the year.

OT: What about the burgundy and gold themed Safeway RedZone Tailgating Lot. Is that new? How do you think it’s elevated the tailgating experience for fans so far?
CB: The RedZone Tailgating Lot is not new, but Safeway became the presenting sponsor in November 2018 as part of their exclusive grocery store partnership with the Redskins. The cool thing about the lot is that it opens one hour before all of the other lots and features a private entrance and exit, extra-large parking spaces for tailgating, live music, games, alumni and cheerleader appearances and more. It’s become a very popular amenity for fans who want to make a day of it and start celebrating at FedExField early.

OT: When listening to fans requests, how do you decide what experiences and additions to include every season?
CB: We try to address as many requests as we can, while also making sure it’s an investment that will impact a large percentage of fans. For some requests, we are able to action quickly. For example, there was a lot of interest from fans to attend training camp in Richmond this year as a group without driving, so we set up a free bus trip for Gold Members. We received great feedback from fans about that experience and it certainly added to the excitement as we entered the season. Other requests can take a bit longer to implement and we are continuously matching against some of our longer-term priorities.

OT: What are the Redskins providing for their fans’ game-day experiences that separates them from other stadiums in the NFL?
CB: Our incredible fan base will always be at the heart of what makes a Washington Redskins game special. This year in particular, we have given the fans new communal spaces to celebrate their favorite team together at the field, a wider variety of food and beverage options to commemorate the occasion, a greater selection of fan gear to show their team pride and a broader range of ticket options to ensure the experience is available to a range of people. It’s a combination of all these things that makes the experience special.

OT: What 2019-2020 addition to the game-day experience are you most excited about and proud of?
CB: The addition of more communal spaces. From the expansion and improvements to the Bud Light Party Pavilion, the Merrill Touchdown Club or the Ciroc Lounge in the West Loge, fans are really enjoying the opportunity to meet friends, listen to live entertainment and experience great moments they can share long after the end of the game.

OT: What prompted the idea to renovate the East Pavilion? 
CB: The idea for this renovation ultimately came from last year’s successful West Pavilion renovation. With the east side, we made it four times larger with live entertainment during pregame and halftime, featuring the Washington area’s largest open-air, live sporting venue/stadium bar so that fans can enjoy the action on the field while immersed in a social environment. We hope it’s a place for fans to interact with one another and experience a camaraderie around their shared love of football and the Redskins. The space has been popular with fans so far this season and we expect that to continue. 

OT: It’s incredible that FedExField has all these new food offerings such as Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy. What are some other new in-stadium places that you think fans will be truly excited about?
CB: We are very excited to offer a variety of new food vendors this year. Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy has certainly been a fan favorite and fans love the exclusive access, as this is only the second location in the U.S. and the first outside of Florida. The 49ers will become the second stadium to offer this fantastic and delicious food concept. Another big hit has been Paisano’s Pizza on the main concourse. Additionally, we’ve added Territory Foods, P.F. Changs, Firehouse Subs and have expanded our healthy food options.  We’ve also continued the expansion of our craft brew options and for a second season; the Redskins’ own #ATTR Ale from Virginia’s Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company. It’s the first beer in team history brewed just for the Redskins and our fans really enjoy it.

OT: What’s your favorite aspect of managing the operations and coordinating guest experience for the Redskins? 
CB: The opportunity to help our fans enjoy their time with us. From the ushers to the police to the concessions stands, our staff is largely comprised of Redskins fans who, like me, have some of their fondest memories while attending Redskins games. It’s our responsibility and privilege to do everything we can to ensure our fans get the great experience they deserve.    

Enjoy all the new upgrades at the next Redskins home game on Sunday, October 6 at 1 p.m. against the New England Patriots. Tickets start at $110. Read more about FedExField and the Washington Redskins at www.redskins.com.

FedExField: 1600 Fedex Way, Landover, MD; www.redskins.com

Terry McLaurin // Photo: courtesy of the Washington Redskins

Wide Receiver Terry McLaurin Brings Determination and Precision To Washington Redskins’ 2019 Season

After finishing last season with a 7-9 record and missing the playoffs, the Washington Redskins entered their 2019 training camp in Richmond with plenty of personnel questions.

Fortunately, Coach Jay Gruden found at least one easy answer in rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin. The tough and speedy pass catcher immediately turned heads in Richmond with his precision route-running, sure hands and tireless work ethic. And while the franchise had a half-dozen receivers on its roster at the outset of camp, McLaurin was the odds-on favorite to win a starting wideout spot.

McLaurin’s rapid ascent up the Redskins’ depth chart should come as no surprise, even though he wasn’t selected until the third round of the 2019 draft. The 23-year-old was an outstanding player for the Ohio State Buckeyes, ranking among the storied program’s top 15 receivers in four categories. He was also a role model off the field, graduating in three-and-a-half years with a degree in communications. McLaurin told On Tap that he brings a workmanlike approach to his game.

“I feel like you have to have that [approach] if you’re going to play at this level and be successful,” he said. “You have to enjoy the grind and the process. You can’t be afraid to get criticized and go out there and work on your weaknesses. I try to work on the things I do not do as well harder than the things I do well. I just want to prove that I can be a force in the league.”

Gruden said it’s already apparent that his promising rookie can do just that. In addition to his explosiveness as wide receiver, the Redskins like McLaurin because of his prowess on special teams. Gruden said he loves how the rookie races downfield and pins kick returners deep in their own territory.

“[He’s been] amazing, really,” Gruden told reporters after a practice in mid-August. “I didn’t know he was this good. He is a powerful, explosive player. He can really, really run. He’s detailed in his work. He’s smart. He has been one of our better players in camp.”

A few days later, Gruden was back at the podium heaping more praise on his rookie receiver.

“Terry is doing an excellent job. He can do everything: he can block, he can run the vertical routes, he can run the short, intermediate routes. He made an unbelievable double-move today. I’ve just been very impressed with the total package of Terry – not just his speed but his toughness, his attention to detail, his ability to finish play, his ability to block [and] line up correctly. He’s just been outstanding in all phases.”

The admiration seems mutual. McLaurin said Gruden’s upbeat enthusiasm is infectious.

“Coach Gruden is very competitive,” he said. “He wants to win every drill and he’s an offensive-minded coach, so he gets really animated when the offense isn’t making the plays we should. He holds everybody to a high standard, and I feel like when you have that kind of energy as a head coach, it just permeates through the rest of the team. He sets a great example.”

The Redskins hadn’t announced which quarterback prospect – Case Keenum, Colt McCoy or rookie Dwayne Haskins (Keenum was named starting quarterback at the end of August) – would be throwing the ball to McLaurin this season at the time of this interview. But the wide receiver said he wasn’t concerned about who the starter would be.

“I just try to create a chemistry with any of three [quarterback prospects] in there. One thing they do like is how I define my routes.”

Crisp, well-defined routes are a hallmark of McLaurin’s game, and it’s something he continued working on throughout training camp. What does that mean, exactly?

“It’s using your body language when you run a route,” he explained. “If you’re going to run a route, you want to define the angles. You want to be consistent in the way you run your route and define your angle full speed. If you’re taking the route skinny, take it skinny and if you’re going to flatten it off, you need to do it as fast as possible and keep that angle and don’t deviate from that.”

McLaurin’s pleased to have a familiar face on the field in Haskins, who played college ball with the wide receiver at Ohio State.

“We’re learning a new system, but the chemistry is still there. A post route is still a post route. I’m trying to tell him what the receivers are looking for and he’s telling us what the quarterbacks need, so it’s been very beneficial.”

While intensely focused on the difficult job of nailing down a starting slot on a competitive NFL roster, McLaurin said he sometimes does allow himself a moment to reflect on his hard-won NFL career.

“You set out a goal and have dream when you’re 7 years old. I took school very seriously. But this has always been my dream and my goal, and I was willing to put in the work to make it happen.”

Now his dream is to help make the Redskins winners again.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that Redskins fans are very loyal and they’re hungry for a winning team. Hopefully, I’ve been drafted to come in and help wherever I can. It’s cool to be a part of an NFL organization with such great history.”

Catch the Washington Redskins’ first home game of the regular season on Sunday, September 15 at 1 p.m. against the Dallas Cowboys. Learn more about their 2019 season at www.redskins.com.

FedExField: 1600 Fedex Way, Landover, MD; 301-276-6000; www.redskins.com

Jon Bostic // Photos - courtesy of Redskins

Redskins’ Hopes Lie in Newcomers

Last season didn’t exactly go as planned for the Washington Redskins, and the team labored to a 7-9 season. The outcome led to some changes in the off-season including the draft day additions of quarterback Dwayne Haskins out of Ohio State and star end Montez Sweat out of Mississippi State, and both are expected to play prominent roles this fall.

Many around the league were shocked when Haskins fell to Washington at No. 15 and though not fast, he’s enormously sized and can throw – with many comparing him to Ben Roethlisberger. Coach Jay Gruden has yet to commit to a starting quarterback but has said Haskins will be given equal opportunity to winning the job along with Case Keenum and longtime Redskin Colt McCoy, who is coming off a broken leg.

While McCoy has been on the team for four years and knows Gruden’s system, he doesn’t have the arm for making the big throw down field. Many fans would rather see the 31-year-old Keenum – who threw for 3,890 yards and 18 touchdowns for Denver last season – as QB1 until Haskins is truly ready to step in. Playing for the University of Houston, Keenum set NCAA records for total passing yards, touchdowns and completions.

Other additions include signing Landon Collins away from division rivals the New York Giants in a $84 million deal, inking offensive lineman Corey Robinson and bringing in Jon Bostic, the team’s projected starting middle linebacker.

“I think we are a good group of young guys and I can see we’re already growing every day,” Bostic says. “We have a lot of coaches around here who have been around ball for a long time. Getting their knowledge and seeing the guys work hard, you couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Over a six-year career, Bostic has spent time with the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers, recording 313 tackles and 5.5 sacks. He’s coming off one of his better years, starting 14 of 16 games with a career-high 2.5 sacks last season in Pittsburgh. Wearing No. 53, Bostic is enjoying his time in camp and likes what he sees from the squad.

“It’s a work in progress, but that’s what training camp is for,” he says. “We’re all getting used to playing with each other and getting better every day. We’re excited to get going.”

The linebacker core includes returnees Shaun Dion Hamilton and Josh Harvey-Clemons, five-year NFL vet Marquis Flowers, and rookies Cole Holcomb and BJ Blunt.

“We have goals as a unit and want to be one of the top defenses in the league, but we understand it’s not going to just be given to us,” Bostic continues. “We have to work hard during and after practice. We have a lot of potential on paper, but potential isn’t going to lead us to W’s. It’s the work that will lead us to those W’s.”

Disappointing news came out of camp early on when it was announced that the offensive line may be without perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams. In late July, he had yet to report due to a contract dispute, which would leave Ereck Flowers to man left tackle with rookie Wes Martin switching to left guard. The hope is that Williams will arrive soon to shore up what could be a strong point for the team.

Adrian Peterson returned to the all-star form of his early years as a new running back with the team, rushing for 1,042 yards on 251 attempts and registering seven TDs. Derrius Guice, who missed his entire rookie year with an injury, and Chris Thompson, now in his seventh year with Washington, join him in the backfield.

Questions remain about the team’s next wide receiver, with Jamison Crowder off to the Jets and a returning crew that saw no one player score more than two touchdowns all season. Two draftees in Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin and NC State’s Kelvin Harmon will see some action and receiver Josh Doctson will be relied on to do more than make the occasional big grab.

“Just seeing what they are accomplishing on the offensive side of the ball – it’s been fun,” Bostic says. “Coach Gruden is an offensive-minded coach and he always wants to beat the defense. We’re all competitive and out there trying to beat the offense every day. We’re all getting each other going in different ways and that will keep us strong.”

If whoever wins the quarterback job gets into a groove, Peterson has a repeat performance, the youngsters make some noise and the playmakers on the defense do their job, the Redskins could win 10 games and be a big player come playoff time.

“Our goal is to win the division and take care of business,” Bostic says.

Don’t miss the Washington Redskins’ first home game on Thursday, August 15 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Learn more about their upcoming season at www.redskins.com.

FedExField: 1600 Fedex Way, Landover, MD; 301-276-6000; www.redskins.com