Contributed by Grant Paulsen - Our most recent Pivotal Play was turned in by Washington Redskins safety Jose Gumbs. Viewed throughout training camp and the preseason as a roster long-shot, Gumbs overcame the odds to become the most surprising addition to the Redskins’ 53-player roster.
Gumbs believed in himself and persevered in the face of doubt; the type of inspired work ethic that any organization would love to see. The 25 year-old entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2012. After a short stay with the New Orleans Saints the former Monmouth star spent nearly three months out of football before joining the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad last winter.
On the first day of training camp in Richmond, the Redskins released a pair of players and signed two defensive backs to fill out a camp quota. Gumbs was one of the players added. The view outside of the organization was that he would be around until Washington needed to sign a player at another less crowded position.
Fast forward. Gumbs made the team’s defense. The 5-foot-10 defender had a banner preseason, making several open-field tackles while consistently showing a propensity to deliver big hits.
Gumbs making the roster is proof that where you come from (his tiny school doesn’t turn out many NFL players) and how you got into the league (not having been drafted or signed to a big contract) doesn’t mean you can’t make it.
Behind the Good of Gumbs making the roster was one player’s confidence that he belonged, even when nobody thought he had a shot to make the Redskins.
Written By Grant Paulsen
This week’s Pivotal Play is being turned in by Redskins linebacker London Fletcher. Now 38 and entering his 16th NFL season, Fletcher has never missed a game. His career began way back in 1998 when Fletcher beat the odds as an undrafted rookie free agent who latched on to the St. Louis Rams roster as a special teams standout. Soon enough he was starting on defense, and before long he was leading the team to a Super Bowl.
His four-year stay with the Rams led to a prolific five-year stint with the Bills. Fletcher became a free agent before the 2007 season and chose to sign with the Redskins. The acquisition was seen as a risky one because the linebacker played a violent position and at 32, his play would likely soon be deteriorating.
Six years later Fletcher is the heart-and-soul of the Redskins defense and he’s coming off four straight pro bowls. Behind the good that has been Fletcher’s on-field dominance is an ultra-motivated athlete who comes from humble beginnings in a gang-ridden area of Cleveland.
Behind the good that has been Fletcher’s ascent to stardom in the NFL are work habits that rival that any of player in Washington’s locker room. He works himself to exhaustion over the offseason in Charlotte, crawling through sand pits while pulling weights on hot days – envisioning his teammates needing him to make a tackle in a fall game.
Fletcher is the NFL’s iron man. The next game he plays will be the 241st consecutive contest of his career. At his position, playing in that many games in a row shouldn’t be possible.
There’s an old adage about being fortunate: Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Roy Helu proved that saying accurate this past week, when the third-year reserve running back made the most of a fluke chance in the fourth quarter of the Redskins’ preseason win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Helu, who started in the Redskins’ preseason opener, registered his first carry in the waning moments of Washington’s most recent preseason win. A veteran roster-lock, Helu did not need to be on the field as the Redskins put the finishing touches on a runaway exhibition win.
The circumstances of the game forced Helu back into action, a couple quarters after he thought his night had ended. Two running backs had left with injuries and another two were unavailable to play. In a pinch, Washington’s coaching staff turned their attention back to Helu – a former starter who was willing to trot out onto the field for a late-game cameo.
With 3:28 remaining on the clock and the Redskins facing a 3rd-and-3 from Pittsburgh’s 30 yard-line, Helu checked into the game and lined up in the backfield. Quarterback, Pat White, took a shotgun snap out of the pistol formation before giving it to Helu on a read-option carry. Helu burst through Washington’s offensive line and sprinted all the way to the end zone, extending the Redskins’ lead to 11 points and sealing the team’s second straight win.
He wasn’t lucky. He was prepared when he got an opportunity – committing a Pivotal Play that we can all learn from as it pertains to making the most of whatever chances we get in our work environment.
Written by Grant Paulsen:
Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan is doing something that business executives in all professions struggle with constantly. He’s doing what is right for the company he’s leading – not what is most popular for his organization.
Three weeks into his fourth training camp, Shanahan is dealing with the most analyzed and scrutinized saga during his time in Washington. Second-year quarterback Robert Griffin – one of the NFL’s most revered talents – is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered last January. Griffin wants to practice with his teammates, and not surprisingly Washington’s fan base is clamoring to see more of the reigning NFL rookie of the year at the team’s training facility in Richmond. But Shanahan isn’t allowing outside pressure to influence an important decision.
Shanahan didn’t allow Griffin to participate in 11-on-11, team drills until his team’s 15th day of practices. Griffin has pleaded with his coach for an increased workload through the media, but Shanahan has stuck to a plan that he and doctors believe will help Griffin make a full recovery.
Now, however, Griffin is being used in portions of practice that he wasn’t able previously.
Although Shanahan has been vilified by many outlets for the decision, he didn’t cave. Time will tell if Shanahan’s plan for Griffin was the right one, but his persistence is admirable enough to help him receive this week’s Pivotal Play.
Written by Grant Paulsen:
Redskins’ cornerback Chase Minnifield turned in this week’s Pivotal Play. After two straight years of battling incessant adversity, the 23 year-old played in an NFL game for the first time in 20 months on Thursday night.
Minnifield suffered a severe knee injury in 2011 that resulted in the former University of Virginia star needing a serious microfracture surgical repair. Despite some NFL clubs fearing that the 185-pound defender would never be the same, Minnifield rehabbed diligently enough to capture the Redskins’ attention last spring.
The Kentucky-native starred during the team’s offseason program and organized team activities. But just as Minnifield was getting high praise and being considered a possibility to make Washington’s roster, he tore his ACL.
It would have been easy for Minnifield to become depressed and worry about his future. Instead the second-year cornerback continued to overcome the odds. Once considered a mid-round pick before going undrafted because of being deemed a health risk, Minnifield possesses the attributes that any company should look for in an employee. He’s motivated and refuses to allow misfortune to alter his goals.
Minnifield’s first game action in nearly two years couldn’t have gone much better on Thursday. He made three tackles and defended a pass while making a major statement in his quest to land a spot on the Redskins’ 53-man roster. His stellar showing was an enjoyable chapter in the comeback story he’s authoring, and his strong performance in the wake of two lengthy knee rehabs is this week’s Pivotal Play.