Sum­mer break a wel­come re­prieve for busy Cousins

Quar­ter­back’s fo­cus turns to con­tract, fa­ther­hood, golf

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY NORA PRINCIOTTI

ASHBURN | School’s out for sum­mer at Red­skins Park. Coach Jay Gru­den, the benev­o­lent prin­ci­pal, can­celled what would have been a third day of mini­camp in 90-de­gree heat Thurs­day, let­ting play­ers out af­ter a 2 p.m. meet­ing Wed­nes­day. Break is over in six weeks, when the team re­con­venes in Rich­mond for train­ing camp on July 27.

Un­til then, quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins has three main things on his to-do list: fin­ish his con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions, get ready to wel­come his first child in Septem­ber, and golf. Or what­ever else it takes to re­lax be­fore the sea­son and fa­ther­hood be­gin.

First, the con­tract. For the sec­ond straight year, Kirk Cousins has July 15 cir­cled on his cal­en­dar, the dead­line for him to sign a longterm deal.

Most of his con­tract deal­ings will run through Eric Schaf­fer, Wash­ing­ton’s newly-pro­moted vice pres­i­dent of foot­ball oper­a­tions, who Cousins likes and who un­der­stands both sides of the pro- cess as a for­mer agent.

“Kirk is a re­ally good player and he’s a Red­skin and we only want him to be here. We’ve ex­pressed that,” Schaf­fer said Tues­day. “But in all of these dif­fer­ent ne­go­ti­a­tions you never know what can hap­pen. It’s also a two-sided deal.”

Wed­nes­day, Cousins praised Schaf­fer for his tal­ent and tone as a ne­go­tia­tor, but threw in a deft re­minder that he knows who has true con­trol of the purse-strings.

“Eric has done a great job all along. He’s very smart, this isn’t his first rodeo so I have a lot of faith in him not only in my sit­u­a­tion but when my sit­u­a­tion is han­dled, han­dling every­body else’s, you know, I have faith in that,” Cousins said.

“But make no mis­take,” Cousins con­tin­ued. “There are ti­tles ahead of him, and those peo­ple make de­ci­sions too. So, yes, Eric has a big role but there are peo­ple above him with big­ger roles and that’s why their ti­tles are pres­i­dent and head coach and so on and so forth.”

Schaf­fer is highly in­tel­li­gent and has a unique skillset and is a trusted opin­ion in Wash­ing­ton, but the money runs through owner Daniel Sny­der and Pres­i­dent Bruce Allen, and Cousins knows that.

Cousins is able to keep some dis­tance from the ne­go­ti­a­tions be­cause of his agent, Mike McCart­ney.

“I hired Mike be­cause I trust him to do the job and I feel like he’s done a very good job all the way along and while things he’s told me I haven’t al­ways liked to hear, they haven’t al­ways been easy to act on, he’s al­ways been right as I look back,” Cousins said. “And so I have great trust in his coun­cil and his ap­proach and I’ll def­i­nitely lean on him as we go for­ward all the way through it.”

It will help Cousins ac­com­plish an­other sum­mer goal if he can avoid spend­ing much men­tal en­ergy on his con­tract. Cousins said that, at the start of last sea­son, he re­al­ized he’d poured his fo­cus into the off­sea­son and was feel­ing a bit burnt out.

“I do be­lieve that last year, I re­mem­ber watch­ing film for the Steel­ers Week 1 and it hit me that we hadn’t played a game yet, tech­ni­cally. I felt like I had been go­ing a mil­lion miles an hour since the pre­vi­ous end of the play­off game against the Pack­ers [the last sea­son],” Cousins said.

“That hit me like, ‘Now it counts, now I’ve got to be ready, and I’m pretty ex­hausted.’”

Last year, Cousins was just one off­sea­son re­moved from hav­ing to win the start­ing job. He spent his time away from the team “go­ing over the plays 80 times” and sched­uled en­tire work­days in 15-minute in­cre­ments. Cousins felt the need to be on top of his game at op­tional prac­tices, all through train­ing camp and in ev­ery pre­sea­son game.

“I think I was treat­ing ev­ery day like it was Mon­day Night Foot­ball against the Steel­ers,” Cousins said. I think if you do that 365 days a year, there’s a thing called burnout.”

Cousins is more com­fort­able now. Even in prac­tice, he’s more will­ing to ex­per­i­ment. The po­lite way to de­scribe Wed­nes­day’s drills is to say that the sec­ondary had a good day — with in­ter­cep­tions for Josh Nor­man, D.J. Swearinger off balls thrown by Cousins.

Cousins un­der­threw a pass to Ter­relle Pryor — whose long stride he is ad­just­ing to — and forced a ball to Josh Doct­son in dou­ble-cov­er­age, al­low­ing Swearinger to make the play.

“I shouldn’t have thrown it, but I wanted to get it out there and just kind of test it,” Cousins said.

Coach Jay Gru­den said that he’s try­ing to get Cousins to “force the is­sue a lit­tle bit,” par­tic­u­larly on down­field throws, so he doesn’t mind a few mis­takes rooted in ag­gres­sion.

“To­day was a lit­tle mis­nomer a cou­ple of times, but for the most part I feel pretty good about where [Cousins and the wide re­ceivers] are,” Gru­den said.

Cousins will still spend time in the play­book pre­par­ing, but he plans to hit the golf course a bit more in June and July. This sum­mer will be his last with­out du­ties as a fa­ther, too. Cousins and his wife, Julie, are ex­pect­ing a baby boy right around Week 1.

The tim­ing isn’t quite ideal, Cousins said, but his wife has a plan. She is putting an­other bed in their nurs­ery, where she’ll sleep most nights and take care of the baby so that he can rest un­in­ter­rupted.

If that’s the case, Cousins should also find the time this sum­mer to seek out a very good florist.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wash­ing­ton Red­skins quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins has un­til July 15 to sign a long-term deal.

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