By Jeff Nations - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Bruce Allen was feeling the heat on Friday, for certain.
The sweltering humidity had something to do with the steady stream of perspiration, but Allen -- the Washington Redskins' Vice President/General Manager -- had plenty of pointed questions to answer from fans as the team's 80th Anniversary Thank You Tour wrapped up at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds to help kick off the Shenandoah County Relay for Life event.
Mostly, those questions -- or comments -- centered around a certain first-round quarterback widely hoped to be the Redskins' franchise player for years to come -- Robert Griffin III, or RG3 for short.
"I think, without a doubt, it's, 'Tell me about RG3,'" Allen said. "It's a pleasant story to tell because as talented as he is athletically, he's maybe a better person than he is an athlete, so it's a fun story to tell."
More to the point, some fans wanted to know just what Allen planned to do to help keep Griffin in one piece this coming season behind an offensive line that has been spotty at times in pass protection.
"Our fans are probably some of the most educated football fans, and they appreciate that we drafted two more offensive linemen," Allen said. "In fact, somebody had a great line. Let me see if I can remember it -- they changed the last verse from "Hail to the Redskins" from 'Fight for old D.C.' to 'Protect RG3.' That's right. Someone said that. I've got to remember that."
Allen was joined at the fairgrounds by current Redskins wide receiver Terrence Austin, linebacker Chris Wilson and linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, plus past Redskins great Dexter Manley, announcer Larry Michael and a sizable contingent of Redskins cheerleaders. Friday marked the second day of the tour, which will visit numerous cities and towns in Virginia and Maryland this summer.
The appearances are voluntary, but Allen had active players at each location in Winchester on Thursday and Shenandoah County on Friday.
"Our players appreciate our history," Allen said. "Before we sign or draft someone, we tell them about the core beliefs of the Redskins. We have to be thankful for the players and the coaches that came before us who built this franchise, built this fan base. And our players understand that."
The trip is a nice diversion, perhaps, but Allen's mind remains on the coming season. It will be his second full season as the team's GM, having been named to the position by owner Daniel Snyder in December 2010. Unlike last year, Allen will at least have some normalcy after the lockout-shortened 2011 offseason.
"I think we're young. We will have a younger team this year," Allen said. "We've had more draft choices than any time in the league the last two seasons. The great part about this offseason versus last year with the lockout, they're able to practice and they've been practicing this week, blending the young talent with our veterans."
Maximizing that young talent is even more important for Washington, which earlier this week lost an arbitration challenge to the NFL's imposed salary-cap cuts. Penalized, along with the Dallas Cowboys, for exceeding the league's recommended cap in 2010 during a technically uncapped season, the Redskins will be short $36 million in cap space over the next two seasons.
"The thing we wanted to do, once that came out March 12 that our cap money was going to be reallocated, we decided we're going to keep everyone in the organization focused on the upcoming season," Allen said. "We'll deal with it down the road, when we have to. But right now we've done a very good job -- players, coaches and administration -- of just staying focused on what we can control."
First and foremost is getting RG3 up to speed and ready to lead the offense as the Redskins look to rebound from another sub-par season.
"We felt good about it when we traded all that we did to get him," Allen said. "I've seen the way the veterans have embraced him, and I've seen the way that he's embraced them. There's very few people who have 'It' when they come into the league, and he has 'It' as a man. I think that's a key trait that you need to be able to be a leader in the NFL, and he's got it."