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In Ashburn, a new football culture includes new (and better) practice fields for Washington

In Ashburn, a new football culture includes new (and better) practice fields for Washington

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The state of the playing surface at FedEx Field has long been a running joke among Washington fans, but the fields in Ashburn, where the team trains during the week, have been in equal need of repair.

Last week that process began with resodding one of the team’s three outdoor practice fields.

Coach Ron Rivera said it’s part of a long-term plan to improve the facilities.

“We’re going to rework the fields, put in drainage and things like that,” Rivera said.

The practice fields sit at the bottom of a hill, and rain often forces the next day’s workout to take place inside the team’s indoor bubble.

It’s a more pressing issue for Rivera, who strongly prefers his team practice outside, even in the elements. Previous coach Jay Gruden often took late-season practices inside, believing that it was easier for his players to focus on learning the plays for the week if they weren’t battling the December cold.

Washington has made a number of improvements in recent years, renovating an Ashburn facility that ranked among the league’s worst.

The building now includes state-of-the-art sports medicine facilities and improved weight rooms.

New team president Jason Wright noted the importance of playing fields, tying that with the new culture he hopes to help create.

“I’ve seen it very practically pan out,” he told Times-Dispatch Sunday columnist Wes McElroy. “The way I’ve been able to partner with Coach and the football ops side around COVID preparations and thinking about our field, and the things that we need to do to better maintain our practice fields — that are actually really important investments for the health and safety of our players.”

Those improvements will have to take place gradually during the season, since the team needs fields to practice on each day.

Long term, the team plans to have its practice facility and training camp on-site at a new stadium, which would open no earlier than 2027.

Rivera said for now the plans have centered on Ashburn, noting that the field at FedEx held up well during last week’s opening game.

“I thought it was excellent,” he said. “I thought the guys did a great job of getting it ready to play.

“It’s one of those things, when the only thing you’re doing is playing football on the field, it makes for a really good field.”

Several outdoor concerns were scheduled during the summer but were canceled because of the pandemic.

Note: Right guard Brandon Scherff went on injured reserve Tuesday after hurting his right knee and receiver Cam Sims was brought up from the practice squad.

Scherff, Washington’s top offensive lineman, is a three-time Pro Bowl selection who is playing under a franchise tag this season.

He was injured Sunday and missed the second half of a 30-15 loss at the Arizona Cardinals.

Scherff was replaced by Wes Schweitzer.

Coach Ron Rivera said Monday that Scherff would “miss a couple of weeks or something like that.”

mphillips@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6546

Twitter: @michaelpRTD

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