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Redskins Legends Gather in Annapolis for Heart Health Awareness

Apr 06, 2014 04:53PM ● By Jake Russell

Photo by Jake Russell

By Jake Russell

On a beautiful Sunday morning, former Washington Redskins quarterbacks Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien took the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis in a flag football game aimed to raise awareness for cardiovascular health. 

Williams and Rypien competed against each other with Theismann serving as the permanent snapper. Players from the Chesapeake and Calvert High School football teams also took part in this high-scoring affair.

Last April, Williams and former Navy Midshipman quarterback Roger Staubach squared off against one another in the inaugural flag football contest.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Heart Health Foundation, the brainchild of Dr. John Martin, medical director of the Anne Arundel Medical Center Heart and Vascular Institute.

For Martin, his hopes of seeing the program flourish are coming to fruition.

"The program started as a really small idea with grand ambitions," Martin says. "It's like if you think about a flood. Every flood starts with a single raindrop and that raindrop doesn't envision itself as a flood at the end. That's where we see this going. We started with one program in Annapolis. There's now over 50,000 people in this town who have been screened."

The issue of heart health hits home for Theismann. His father was diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurism, which abnormally enlarges the vessel supplying blood to the body's extremities.

"Nobody talks about it but there are about a million people walking around with it and nobody really knows they have it," he says. "And then all of a sudden their heart, the aorta bursts and now you have a person who is in great risk. We're just trying to get everybody aware of that."

Raising awareness for heart health is a family matter for Williams as well.

"It's personal because I've got an older brother who had to go through some heart procedures so I understand what it's all about especially being an African-American," says the Super Bowl XXII MVP. "[It's the] number one killer in our community. I think it's very important that you provide free screenings for people who can't provide for themselves."

Following the game, fans enjoyed a VIP tailgate in the stadium's N* Room where they could continue to mingle with the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks.

For those in attendance, it was a special day. Seeing Theismann, Williams and Rypien brought back feelings of nostalgia and memories of a winning tradition from more than a generation ago. The current Redskins have not achieved success comparable to what those three players accomplished but the effort to reach that level remains.

The Redskins hired Williams in February to work in their front office and help in personnel decisions.  

The team, which was relatively quiet until this point in free agency, made it's biggest move of the offseason last Wednesday by signing controversial wide receiver DeSean Jackson. While there is no denying his talent, questions remain regarding his character and compatibility on a new roster. Williams says he's happy to have Jackson on the team.

"I got a chance to talk to him," Williams says. "He met with everybody in the building. Everybody was trying to get a feel for who he is and the kind of guy that he is. I think everybody feels pretty good about DeSean Jackson being a Redskin."

Williams is confident the six-year veteran can put the past behind him.

"I had a chance to meet him before he got drafted by Philadelphia when I was in Tampa," says Williams. "The first thing he did was he found me down the hall, we shut the door and had a good heart-to-heart talk. I think what happened to him, he's still kind of confused as to who said what or what have you but I told him that wasn't important now. The most important thing is going forward and being a good teammate for us."

Like Williams, Rypien believes a fresh start in Washington is a good thing for the three-time Pro Bowler.

"I think this is a new lease on his second opportunity to be a great pro," Rypien says. "I know he's going to take full advantage of this. If he doesn't, that's up to him. He's a great talent. From what I heard, he's not that bad a kid. He can answer the naysayers by doing what he does on the field and off the field."

Despite Jackson's his troubled history, Theismann also agrees that the Redskins made the right move by signing the 27-year-old.

"Just his speed alone on the field changes what people should try and do against the Redskins, who had a very dynamic running game anyway," Theismann says. "And as far as off the field goes, like I said, I trust the Redskins did their due diligence."

"Whatever went on in Philadelphia," Theismann added, "I do know this, that if I'm DeSean Jackson and I have this opportunity to come to the Washington Redskins in the division, I'm going to be a very inspired individual."

The biggest key to Washington's success this year will be the health of quarterback Robert Griffin III, whose production dropped off dramatically in 2013 after an impressive Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign just one season before.

Rypien believes another year of recovering from a torn ACL that ended Griffin's rookie season will bode well for him.

"I think he wasn't fully himself [last year]," the Super Bowl XXVI MVP said. "A torn ACL is a serious injury, you know. I've had a meniscus removed and I came back earlier than I wanted to. I was half the player I was, half as mobile as I was before. You could see that he was not himself and I think another year under his belt and having the weapons that he has, I think it's going to be a great thing."

In the eyes of Williams, Griffin needs to continue to develop a rapport with his teammates and vice versa.

"I think number one, what we've got to realize is that no matter who Robert Griffin is, whether it was Robert Griffin, me, Mark Rypien or Joe [Theismann], the most important thing is the people around him," Williams says. "I think that's our job now and we're trying to do that [and] put enough people around him that will make him the quarterback that he's capable of being."