Thursdays are incredibly full days for Antwaan Randle El. They start with meetings, followed by weights, and then a morning practice. “We don’t wear full gear, but we do wear helmets,” he says. “It’s definitely difficult, and it lasts about 30, 45 minutes.”
Open locker room comes at the same time as many players are grabbing lunch. This, as I’ve mentioned before, is theoretically the time when the media has access to the players and can get all the quotes they need. In practice, it doesn’t always shake out that way, which we’ll get to shortly.
After open locker room, it’s time for the longer afternoon practice session. One of the notable things in regular season practices is the practice squad players portraying the other team’s stars, like Byron Westbrook putting on a 25 over-jersey to simulate Reggie Bush last week. “It helps them on defense, no doubt,” says Randle El. “You know where Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and whoever are going to line up in the game. So when you’re in the game, you see the numbers, you recognize the same formations.”
Randle El has a solid practice with a few nice catches, but possibly the most noteworthy thing he does is take off running at a hard count. No one else on either offense or defense moves, except that Matteral Richardson, covering Randle El, doubles over laughing. “I false started,” he says ruefully. “But the ball moved a little bit, so I can kinda blame [Casey] Rabach.”
After practice ends, there’s an informal limited media availability as the players walk from the practice fields to the locker room. This is a source of some frustration for some of the players, including Randle El.
“You wish you had time to come in the locker room and kinda cool down, and THEN have the media come in, much like at a game,” he says, soaking in an ice bath just after practice. “After the game, you’ve got those few minutes to cool off and gather your thoughts before the media comes in. At practice, you don’t even get off the field, and they’re at the end line waiting to talk to you. A lot of times it bothers you because you’re trying to move on to the next week, and they’re still asking about last week.”Was today one of those days? “Yeah, a little bit. I got several of the questions from the other day about the punt return, the fumble … it just gets a little old.”
This is one of those things that football players do that I really don’t know if I could. I’m not sure that I could stop doing my job every few hours to answer questions from an aggressive, eager media about my performance, and mention that to Randle El.
Randle El agrees. “Can you imagine a steelworker who goes to work, works 12 hours, then has to answer questions about his day?” In the end, though, everyone’s just doing their jobs, and Randle El, like the other players, knows it. “I guess I just wish there was a break between the work and the time to talk to the media.”
What really stretches things out for him on Thursdays is his afternoon side gig, when he changes into a suit to tape Redskins Gameday, which he hosts alongside Larry Michael. This is Randle El’s third year hosting the show, which airs on Sundays at 11 on WTTG FOX-5, and it’s something that is very important to him.
“This is something I would love to do after my football career ends, unless God calls me to the pulpit,” he says. Both of them are easy to envision. Randle El has the resonant voice of either a preacher or a TV personality (it’s been amusing in this job, meeting radio and TV personalities and finding out that, yes, they all really do talk like that all the time) and expressive, animated features that work well onscreen.
Co-host Michael can easily see Randle El transitioning to this potential life after football. “He could be a studio guy, he could be a color guy – because he’s quick, and color guys have to be quick and witty – he could do sideline work,” Michael says. “This is his third year doing the show with us, and each year he’s wanted to do more during the show, because he’s wanted to get better as an announcer and as a broadcaster and he works to do it.”
This week’s show is a little bumpy, albeit through no fault of Randle El’s. There’s been a mix-up somewhere along the line, and scheduled guest Jason Campbell is off doing some other appearance. A scramble ensues, ending when Randle El wrangles RT Stephon Heyer from downstairs in the locker room and convinces him to appear in Campbell’s place for a segment. There are the usual TV show hiccups – flubbed lines, graphics that need correcting, facts to check, and so on – but the shoot for the 22 minute show is still completed in about an hour.
At which point Randle El changes out of the suit and into yet another uniform: his regular dad clothes. “I’ve got to get home. We’re having friends from church over tonight for steaks and maybe some fellowship,” he says. “I grill sometimes, but not tonight. That’s not my job tonight.”
Which is probably for the best, as he’s at the tail end of an eleven hour day at that point, and it’s all going to start over again bright and early the next morning.