Washington Football Team returns to Richmond training camp

Fred Jeter | 7/29/2021, 6 p.m.
Welcome back, burgundy and gold, even if it’s only for a quick pit stop.
Steven Sims Jr., a wide receiver for the Washington Football Team, stretches to make the catch during practice Wednesday morning at the team’s Richmond training camp at 2401 W. Leigh St. Fans were on hand for the session. Photo by Regina H. Boone

Welcome back, burgundy and gold, even if it’s only for a quick pit stop.

Following a one-year hiatus, the Washington Football Team has returned to Richmond while trying to build on the positive vibes it gathered a season ago.

The NFL squad will be blocking and tackling at the Bon Secours Training Facility on West Leigh Street through Saturday, July 31, which will be Fan Appreciation Day starting at 8 a.m.

The camp opened Tuesday.

Catching up: Since the team’s last trip to Richmond in 2019, much has changed. The D.C. football franchise has a new name—although it will likely change again, a new coach—Ron Rivera, and a new list of headliners, including veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and pass rusher extraordinaire Chase Young, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

From 2013 to 2019, the City of Richmond paid the Washington Football Team $500,000 for two-week stints on the North Side, hoping it would be a boon to the economy. Any financial gains turned out to be less than expected and the $500,000 payout was scrapped for this year.

Last year would have been the conclusion of an eight-year deal. Because of the pandemic, he WFT conducted all preseason training in 2020 at its franchise-owned facility in Ashburn in Northern Virginia. This year, the WFT is paying Richmond $100,000 to rent the Bon Secours training facility.

Uptick in momentum: Following a dreary 2-7 start in 2020, the WFT finished 7-10 with an NFC East title and two wins each over Division rivals Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Washington hung tough against eventual Super Bowl champ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, falling 31-23 in the first round of playoffs.

Numbers game: First round and 19th overall draft pick Jamin (JAY-men) Davis posted all the right numbers at the NFL Pre-Draft Combine in Indianapolis.

The former University of Kentucky linebacker measured 6-foot-31⁄2 and 234 pounds. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds, did an 11-foot standing broad jump and bench pressed 225 pounds for 21 reps.

Now the WFT is hopeful Davis can put up similarly handsome numbers on the field. He is viewed as a mobile linebacker who can cover from sideline to sideline.

Tee it up: After leaving Richmond, the WFT will open its three-game preseason schedule Aug. 12 in Foxboro, Mass., against the New England Patriots.

The regular season opens Sept. 12 with the Los Angeles Chargers coming to Washington.

What’s next? There are no guarantees the WFT will ever return to Richmond. So what happens to a 17-acre facility built at a cost of about $10 million? The well-manicured, two-field layout has an adjacent building for exercise and meetings, but has no lights and virtually no seating.

With addition of lights and bleachers, the centrally located facility could be used for a variety of football events—youth, high school regular season and playoff games, summer camps, etc.

Will there be football life at the Bon Secours facility after WFT?