Pete Kendall, Award-Winning Talker

In open locker room today, in front of the assembled media, David Elfin of the Washington Times presented The B.J. Blanchard Good Guy Award, which goes, as the plaque says, “To The Washington Redskins Player Who Has Best Helped The Media Do Its Job.”

If you were to go purely by number of words written (and spoken, and shouted by talking heads in little boxes), you would probably think this would go to Clinton Portis, for such hits as “Clinton Portis Wants A Different Offensive Line,” “Clinton Portis Battles Brian Mitchell,” “Clinton Portis Crushes His Coach,” and “Clinton Portis Wears Something Red,” among many others.

But that would miss the point of the award. This award honors the guy who cooperates with the media, who makes himself available, who talks even when things are going wrong. The kind of guy, for example, who stands and rehashes his own “boneheaded play” over and over and over again for as long as the media needs him. This year, it’s Pete Kendall.

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Elfin explained to me how the award, named after the longtime receptionist at Redskins Park, developed: “I came off the beat after the 1999 season and thought, ‘You know, we never really honored the players for how much they cooperated with us through tough times,'” he said. “So when I came back in a more extensive fashion in 2002, we started this award. We talked about it and decided it was The Good Guy Award, and since B.J. had always been so good to everyone in the media – kind of everyone’s mom in this building, as you know – we named it after her.”

Previous award winners have included Jason Campbell, London Fletcher, and Fred Smoot, among others, so I figured I’d see how such a prestigious honor had changed Smoot’s life.
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Redskins Voting the Non-Redskins Ticket

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The fans no longer have to worry about Pro Bowl voting. Everyone got out and Voted the Redskins Ticket, and the net result was that out of nineteen positions on the Pro Bowl rosters, nine of them have Redskins as the leading vote-getters. Thanks to ESPN NFC West blogger Mike Sando’s downloadable spreadsheet, we can see that the Redskins also had eleven second- or third-place finishers in the fan voting.

So congratulations and nice work to everyone who voted. The bad news is, that’s all in the past, and now it moves to the player and coach voting, which takes place this week at team facilities across the NFL. If the voting process for those teams is anything like it is here, this is probably a pretty lively week.

Ever wonder how the player voting works? I had never given it any specific thought, but had a vague mental image of guys sitting quietly on the stools in front of their lockers, gazing contemplatively into the distance as they weigh the relative merits of, say, Drew Brees and Kurt Warner before finally making a careful and deliberate mark on a pre-printed Scantron sheet.

This was not an accurate mental image. Here’s how it actually goes down.
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Friday, November 21: Sitting in Sonny’s Office

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When you walk into Redskins Park, you are (sensibly enough) looking directly at the reception desk. Beyond the reception desk are the Super Bowl trophies, and beyond that are the stairs down to the locker room, practice fields, and so on. The far wall beyond that is a glass window looking in on the Redskins.com TV studio, where Redskins Nation and Redskins Gameday and the eleventy million other shows are filmed and edited.

In front of that window, with a view of the lobby, the trophies, and everyone who walks into the facility, are two black couches. If you come in on a Monday or Friday, the right-hand couch is occupied by Sonny Jurgensen. If you’re in at the right time on any other day, the couches are occupied by Fred Smoot, Carlos Rogers, and a rotating assortment of other guys, studying their playbooks, jawing at each other, occasionally avoiding the media, and just generally hanging out.

Then a plaque went up over the right-hand couch:

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Thursday, November 20: More Voting For More Smoot Talk!

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Yes, yes, yes. I know. You’re voted out. First it was all the FedEx Player of the Week awards. Then it was the President of the United States of America. Then it was the Pro Bowl. Then it was seemingly endless commentary on the process of voting for the Pro Bowl. I have no doubt that voting fatigue has set in, and I understand. I really do.

But this one is important: you’re voting to give Fred Smoot an audience of something like 97 million people. And I think we can all agree that if anyone deserves an audience of 97 million, it’s the team’s Dutch, blurple-Impala-driving, hot-sauce-loving, FedEx-truck-loading cornerback.

More specifically, it’s time to vote on the NFL’s Superad campaign, which has players record stories of their NFL experiences, the best of which will get turned into an artsy black-and-white Super Bowl ad.

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Texas Pete Hot Sauce Loves Fred Smoot

It’s always fun when boxes and boxes of stuff show up unannounced for players on the team. I doubt anything will match the sublime joy of Colt Brennan faced with dozen of fresh pineapples, but yesterday’s mail was certainly interesting: four cases of Texas Pete hot sauce for Fred Smoot.

(The picture, obviously, is from the pineapple event, but I wasn’t lucky enough to have my camera handy when Smoot was carrying the hot sauce to his car.)

Anyhow, Smoot took about half of it to his car and gave the rest away. Safties coach Steve Jackson was handing out bottles to anyone who wanted it, and the last bit wound up in the kitchen, close enough to the coffee machine that people were asking if you were supposed to add it to your coffee.

I caught up with Smoot during open locker room today to ask him what prompted this particular windfall.

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I Wish I Got Austrian TV

It’s easy to make the media horde at Redskins Park look enormous; lord knows I’ve been guilty of it myself. And, numerically, it does tend to be a pretty substantial group, but by this point in the season they’ve all become fairly familiar. Even the guys I don’t know by name or haven’t spoken to, I recognize and can usually associate with a particularly network or publication.

So when new people show up, they tend to stand out, especially when they’re carrying unfamiliar microphones and speaking with European accents.

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This is Hanno Settele, correspondent for Austrian national public service broadcaster ORF (it’s short for Österreichischer Rundfunk, and not to be confused with the airport in Norfolk, Virginia), alongside his cameraman. They were in open locker room today, interviewing players and having them record greetings to the Austrian audience.

I caught the beginning of Jim Zorn’s greeting, but didn’t know what was going on in time to tape the end. My notes on the beginning read “Hi, everybody,” and Barry Svrluga‘s went only a bit further, adding “I’m Jim Zorn, coach of the Washington Redskins. I’m the head coach.” It definitely went on from there, but I’ve asked around and haven’t been able to find a recording of it.

My recorder was running, though, when Settele approached Fred Smoot and explained who he was with.

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Fred Smoot Likes Reading, Veterans, Loading Delivery Trucks

Fred Smoot was in the parking lot of Redskins Park today, loading a FedEx truck with sealed boxes while the uniformed FedEx driver stood by, watching nervously.

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“Lift with your legs, man,” the FedEx guy said. “We can’t have you getting hurt — and it’ll cost me my job if you do.”

“I’m lifting all upper body,” Smoot said, laughing. “What I need is one of those FedEx uniforms. I could get used to this job.”

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