No one can tell if it will translate to wins. But at the least, players and those employed by the Washington Redskins feel more comfortable about practice this week than they did over the last month or so.
The sprints after practice got the headlines. But players say that was the least of what changed. As the 'Skins head to Miami to face the similarly winless Dolphins, they do so feeling like they are in a better place now than they were prior to the firing of head coach Jay Gruden.
"It's been good, more uptempo, more upbeat, a lot more physical as a team, which will make the players a little tougher," Washington safety Landon Collins told NFL.com on his way home from the facility on Friday. "It's been positive. We don't think the season's over with."
Gruden was fired around 5 a.m. on Monday morning, an abrupt end to a frustrating situation that had players knowing what was coming. Interim coach Bill Callahan was elevated, and while players all genuinely liked Gruden, they do say the move has improved their situation.
As one Redskins veteran said, "We love Jay, but we saw the writing on the wall. Sometimes change is good."
Sources say there were three great days of practices, with no players showing up late and no one trickling out of the locker room as the team lined up for stretching. That had not been the case under Gruden. Adrian Peterson, for instance, told reporters it was the best week of practice since he's been in Washington.
Collins, who has 43 tackles on the season, explained why the tempo being faster in practice helps immensely with an interesting, nuanced take.
"(Callahan) is making the tempo and cadence a little bit faster so people can be more in game mode," said Collins, choosing words carefully. "Not saying Jay would allow guys to go through the motions or anything like that. But guys that are young and just coming in, they'd look at the older vets going through the motions in practice, but vets know how to turn it on and off and know how to practice. Younger guys don't. You get what I'm saying? When you got a young team, (Callahan) has turned up the tempo, so guys are doing things faster so when it gets to the game, there's not thinking anymore, it's just, 'All right, I know what I'm doing.' "
One thing that caught everyone's attention was the postpractice sprints. Those are a training camp staple in some places, but rare for the regular season.
"Sometimes," Collins said, "it needs to be that way."
Collins has been through this before. With the New York Giants, he saw Tom Coughlin out of a job after the season and Ben McAdoo fired midseason. He laughed looking back, saying it gets easier the more you go through it because you understand the changes are coming. He also knows the reality.
"It can only go up from here," Collins said, "so why not continue going up?"