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Jay Gruden: Contract won't keep Kirk Cousins from leading

PHOENIX -- Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden hasn't ditched his optimism regarding quarterback Kirk Cousins' long-term future in Washington. The bigger focus now, though, is the immediate future, which means this season.

It's the same situation the Redskins encountered last season when Cousins played under the franchise tag. It could be the same one they face in 2018, if Washington wants to use the transition or franchise tag for a third time.

Gruden said they "text here and there" about what Cousins is doing to get ready. This past week, that meant heading to Florida to work with Gruden's brother, Jon. Several teammates joined him: quarterback Nate Sudfeld and receivers Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder.

The bigger picture for Jay Gruden is that, for now, he has a starting quarterback who knows his system. Cousins will enter his fourth year with Gruden and his third as the starter.

"We have been in contact about things he wants to work on, and we've addressed that so when OTAs hit we can hit it hard," Gruden said. "It's great to have a [quarterback] who has been in the system for two years so you can just jump right into really hard-core situational work. Just really fine-tune some of the other things like cadence and the little things you want to fine-tune without starting from scratch."

That helps, too, when it comes to teaching newcomers. The Redskins will have two new receivers in Pryor and Brian Quick. Doctson, provided his Achilles issues don't resurface, will have a big role for the first time.

That's why it was good for them to gather in Florida.

"It's good to have Josh get lined up and work the route concepts and Kirk to get to know what type of receiver he is," Gruden said. "He is different from what he is used to throwing to; he is a different type of target with different speed, height and all that stuff. He needs to get used to the timing. Terrelle Pryor obviously, too -- those are two different unique individuals you have to get used to."

Gruden said a coach wants his quarterback to be an extension of the coaching staff, much the way guys like the New England Patriots' Tom Brady or the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers are.

"The coach doesn't have to go out there and tell everybody what to do all the time; sometimes the quarterback can just go out and whisper to them," Gruden said. "It helps when you speak the same language and that takes time. It's not perfect yet, but I think being the third year in the system he will feel a lot more comfortable in that role. I hope he does because we can't see everything out there on the field all the time, and it's good to have the corrections come from not just the coaches all the time."

That's part of the leadership any quarterback must exert. Cousins said earlier this offseason that having a long-term deal would enable him to become a better leader. But Gruden said his contract status doesn't need to matter.

"Being a starting quarterback you should be a leader and feel good no matter what his contract status is," Gruden said. "Having a long-term contract maybe helps a little bit, but when we get out on the field on the first game Sunday afternoon, people are going to look to him for leadership. He is going to provide it whether it's a one-year deal or a two-year deal. I know he is going to play his butt off, compete, prepare and do all the things necessary whatever [length] the contract is, and we are excited to coach him."