What it was like seeing the Commanders pack up the past and walk into the future

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What it was like being at the Commanders' locker clean-out day originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

ASHBURN, Va. — After each weekend's games, NFL players often swap jerseys with an opponent. But after each season, guys look to exchange gear — uniforms, autographs or anything else of the like — with their own teammates.

There were plenty of trades happening in the Commanders' locker room Monday during the club's clean-out day, which just about signaled the end of the 2022 campaign for the franchise. Instead of being one of the 14 organizations preparing for the upcoming playoffs, members of Washington were left to gather their belongings, meet with the coaching staff and swap mementos with one another before heading their separate ways.

So, there was Tress Way ambling over to Terry McLaurin's stall and asking McLaurin to sign a youth-sized Commanders uniform for Way's son, whom apparently idolizes the Pro Bowl wideout more than his own dad (who's also a Pro Bowler).

There was Tyler Larsen, leaving one of his game-worn tops that was inscribed with a lengthy message on Logan Thomas' stool.

And there was Taylor Heinicke, who was basically running a personal signed memorabilia operation in his corner of the space considering how many guys stopped by with items for him to write on.

Such transactions ensured that this collection of athletes will preserve their time together because it assuredly won't be the same bunch when football activities pick up again in the spring.

"There’s so much attrition year in, year out," McLaurin said. "You just try to savor these moments."

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"It's not gonna be the same group of guys again," Kam Curl said. "That's kind of messed up."

In between those back-and-forths, contributors both big and small were given a chance to look back on the schedule that had only just concluded with a surprising win over the Cowboys. While those interviews featured laughs and discussion of progress, a consistent message from the chunk of the roster that chatted with reporters was that not achieving more together will ultimately go down as a wasted chance.

"Clearly, more could have been done," Charles Leno Jr. said. "We're not in the playoffs, so more could have definitely been done."

"We were very, very close to being a really special team in a sense," Sam Cosmi said. "You look back, there's a countless amount of plays out there that we either left behind or [didn't] really capitalize."

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On top of collecting thoughts on Washington's year from those who suited up, a major part of Monday was catching up with free agents who could possibly be employed by another squad in a couple of months. Atop that list was defensive tackle Daron Payne, whose bright green sweatshirt might as well have been a nod to all the money he's about to score with his next contract.

"I just want what I earned," Payne said.

Others, such as Larsen, Cam Sims and Cole Holcomb all expressed various levels of desire to return to the Commanders but acknowledged that predicting such an outcome is useless.

"I'd love to get something done," Holcomb said. "But I understand the business side of this league. So whatever happens, I'll deal with what I got to deal with."

Monday also afforded the opportunity to lay eyes on previously-injured players. Antonio Gibson, for example, appeared with crutches and a boot on his surgically-repaired left foot. J.D. McKissic, who has suffered from neck problems that have prematurely ended his last two seasons, showed up, too, and was in an upbeat mood — at least until Curtis Samuel noticed McKissic's new goatee and made the running back into a target.

"He looks like somebody's pops," Samuel chirped. "He looks like the kind of guy who goes to a movie theater and sits by himself in the back."

Not everyone stopped for a conversation during the three-hour clean-out process, however. Jonathan Allen and Andrew Norwell were among those who were absent entirely, while Carson Wentz ducked in, then out without addressing the media. John Ridgeway declined to talk.

"I'm busy," the massive lineman said.

That was the end of that.

Finally, Chase Young sat down for his session, which commenced a minute or two before noon.

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Like his peers, he was asked for his opinion on what may be an offseason filled with change and additional drama, most notably revolving around Dan and Tanya Snyder's ownership.

Like his peers, he opted to answer quickly as opposed to diving into any major predictions.

"[You've] got to adapt in life and that’s what we doing," he said. "So, you know, go Commanders."

And with that, the 2022 Commanders were gone.