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How the Redskins (Hopefully) Used the Bye Week to Improve

Last year the team came out of the off week to win seven straight games. Can they do it again?

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

—Søren Kierkegaard

The Redskins, by virtue of doing nothing this week because of the league-mandated bye, have improved their standing in the NFC East. While other teams played and lost, the Redskins remained the same. Bye weeks come at different times for different teams, and last week it came for the Redskins. Rather than breaking down the logic of how this happened, I want to discuss what the team may or may not have been doing during that free time and how that free time could be used to make the team better.

A free week is supposed to give players a chance to take a break during a season of big hits and wear and tear on the body. For a losing team like the Redskins, it is a time to heal and to get the mind lined up and moving in the right direction. Injured players are mandated to show up for rehab, but if you are not on that list, what you do with your free time is up to you.

There are flights home to visit loved ones, time with your kids and family. Perhaps a trip back to your old college, or maybe some personal appearances to make a little extra cash, because not all players sign multimillion-dollar contracts.

The National Football League mandates that the coaches cannot coach during the bye, so it is up to the individual player or players to get together and watch film or go over drills in order to get better.

Mentally you may just need to spend some time reflecting on what the past looked like and where you want to go. Most motivational speakers talk about visualizing where you want to be and how you plan to get there. For the Redskins, each player needs to reflect on their performance the past four weeks. Some need to work on fundamentals like basic tackling or catching the ball, or on improving their strength. This week, with the bye over, the coaches will have time to review their play-calling and go over what they can do to improve their positions.

I read somewhere that the only thing each person on Earth has in common is a 24-hour day, and what you do with that time could be the difference between winning and losing. A week is a short amount of time to change habits, but it only takes a moment to change a mindset. The way you go about your work and what you are willing to do to gain some victories during that week could change things around. Last year the Redskins came off of their bye and won seven straight games.

Everyone should go away thinking that they can’t point the finger at someone else but have to look at themselves in a mirror and figure what value they are adding to the team. If each player does that, then it is no longer about offense, defense, and special teams, but about a team—the Washington Redskins team, one unit with one goal: to win.

Ken Harvey is the former president of the Washington Redskins Alumni Association. He played as an outside linebacker for the Phoenix Cardinals and the Washington Redskins from 1988 to 1999. During his career he appeared in 164 games and recorded 89 sacks.

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