Bruce Allen, a Self-Described ‘Eternal Optimist’, Is Concerned About the Adverse Effects of the Prolonged NFL Lockout

May 23, 2011 – 8:00 am by Michael Bean

Being the general manager of the Washington Redskins sure sounds like a great gig on the surface. Having to clean up the incompetent and corrupt mess left by previous GM Vinny Cerrato? Not so glamorous. Bruce Allen knew what he was getting into when he agreed to replace Cerrato and work under Daniel Snyder, so there’s no reason to feel too sorry  for him. Whether or not Allen has the once proud franchise pointed in the right direction remains to be seen. Washington added twelve new players to bolster competition and infuse new energy into the organization in this year’s draft. Granted, the lion’s share of those dozen picks are late rounders that can’t all reasonably be expected to pan out and contribute. Of course, the ongoing NFL lockout makes it that much harder for the new crop of youngsters, not to mention the young guys already on the team, as they try to acclimate to Mike Shanahan’s system.

Allen joined 980 ESPN D.C. to talk about the recent reports of Donovan McNabb’s refusal to wear wrist-bands last year that contained the ‘Skins’ offensive plays, what to make of John Beck, Rex Grossman and Donovan McNabb all stating this offseason that they expect to be the quarterback in Washington next season, how the ‘Skins were able to spend some solid time with Ryan Kerrigan during the brief window that the lockout was lifted on the Friday of the recent draft, how that still is no substitute for the type of work that is needed to be done for the slew of young players that the team hopes can add competition or contribute in the future, if he’s marked any potential dates that the lockout might be lifted on, how coach Mike Shanahan has been staying busy with all the restrictions on who he can interact with during the lockout, how he doesn’t believe the NFL is immune to fan backlash if this labor impasse carries on too long, and how there has yet to be any discussion about the possibility of replacement players being used for the 2011 season.

If the recent stories are true regarding Donovan McNabb refusing to wearing wrist-bands with the Redskins’ offense on them:

“Well it doesn’t matter on the stories because obviously last year we were trying to work together as a new staff with new players. And Donovan tried to work into our system, did everything he could, and we just couldn’t perform. We were 6-10. We’re not going to get into the ‘he said, she said’ type of thing. Donovan’s been a pro his entire career and we have a great respect for him.”

On who amongst John Beck, Rex Grossman and Donovan McNabb is the front runner to be the starting quarterback considering all have said they expect to be that guy for the Redskins in 2011:

“Well as soon as we get can a collective bargaining agreement, we’re going to let people compete not only for the quarterback position, but for every position on this team. I know you’re going to give me a crap for saying that I’m trying to hedge it, but the truth is every job is open. We were 6-10, we have to get better. One of the reasons we wanted to have the type of draft we did was to infuse a new attitude, to infuse a new sense of urgency from some young players, and we’ve got 12 guys that will compete at every position. And at the quarterback position, I want guys to think that they’re the starter. No one wants someone who thinks they’re a backup. And for John Beck and Rex and Donovan, I expect starters and backups to always think that way.”

If the ‘Skins were able to accomplish anything of note during the brief window that the lockout was lifted on the Friday of the three-day 2011 NFL Draft:

“Yeah it was open for business and Ryan Kerrigan came in and did a press conference and spent a lot of time with our coaches. So he understands what we’re doing. But it’s on the field work, it’s in the meeting room watching tape with the coaches who are telling you we want a 45 degree angle with your left foot on these certain situations. So we’re looking forward to that time. I know as soon as they get in the room together and actually want to negotiate, we’ll get a deal done.”

If he’s thought through the various scenarios of how the Redskins will approach free agency based on how long or short the window might be to sign guys:

“Yes, we’ve had time work out several scenarios, and if you’re going to give us another week we’ll figure out another 90 of them. But yes, we’ve worked through all the different scenarios. And free agency is really interesting if you look back at the history. In the first 48 hours of free agency, usually the top free agents make their decision where they’re going to go.”

If he’s pinpointed any specific dates that the lockout might end:

“No, it’s really every day starts a new calendar.  As an eternal optimist, I believe they can resolve it within 48 hours, so we’re going to be ready  to go whenever they get back into the room. So everyday just moves back and obviously becomes a condensed calendar for everybody.”

On how Coach Mike Shanahan is staying busy and productive with all the restrictions on who he can interact with during the lockout:

“Coach Shanahan has been very creative. The offensive coaches and the defensive coaches go against each other on a chalkboard, and it gets very volatile. So we’re looking at everything we’re doing. We’re breaking down our 2nd-and-9s and the defense is breaking down their 2nd-and-9s, and it’s count/counter-point every time.”

If he’s of the mindset that the NFL’s popularity can’t be tarnished by this lockout even if it drags into the early parts of the season:

“I think we have a special game, and I think it’s our jobs as operators of the game today to protect it. It’s been made by people like Coach Halas and people that have followed him, and it’s special. No it’s not immune. We have a lot going on in our country besides the economy and with a few wars going on across the seas. We have to be respectful of the game, and we have to make sure this game is there for the next generation. You guys have heard me say it before that I’m proud to have my job that Bobby Mitchell, Bobby Beathard, Charley Casserly and Vinny Cerrato had before me to make sure that this game was here for me today. And I don’t want us to hurt this game, I really don’t for the fans and for the future generation of players.”

If he can say with any certainty that there will not be replacement players in 2011 under any circumstance:

“I do know that’s never even been discussed. That’s never been a plan. Once we get them in a room — if they would come to this tent right now — if we had them in here, I’m sure our alumni would make sure a deal was done.”

Listen here to Allen with Andy Pollin and Thom Loverro on ESPN 980 in Washington D.C.

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