Protest aside, typical day in the stadium

Washington Redskins team buses got into an accident before the game began.

Sam Kraemer

It was a regular Sunday inside TCF Bank Stadium, despite a more than 3,000-person protest right outside the University of Minnesota stadium’s gates.

But as one of the largest demonstrations in campus history stirred, creating a commotion on the facility’s lawn, the NFL players didn’t seem distracted.

After the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Washington Redskins 29-26, tight end MarQueis Gray said the Vikings blocked the protest out of their minds and only focused on playing football.

“We were on the field playing, so we had a bigger distraction in trying to win this game,” Gray said.

There were no visible posters and signs, or audible chants, protesting the Redskins name inside the stadium. And as protesters booed, fans watching the game also voiced dissatisfaction aimed at referees or instances of poor play from Minnesota.

Vikings fullback Jerome Felton also said the game felt like business as usual.

“I didn’t even know anything was going on,” he said. “That’s out of our control. … The only thing that affected us was telling our family which route to take [to the stadium].”

The Washington team has faced protests from groups nationwide for years.

“In that locker room,” quarterback Robert Griffin III said, “we focus on what’s going on in there and what’s going on on that field. You can’t really worry about the negativity that’s swirling around. Someday, that’ll stop, and I truly believe that.”

Washington had other troubles to overcome Sunday besides the protest. On top of losing the game on a fourth-quarter comeback by Minnesota, the team got into a bus accident just hours before game time.

Prior to the contest, one bus transporting Washington players rear-ended another team bus about five minutes away from the stadium.

Griffin said the accident affected the team.

“We saw the bus, hit the bus and we both thought we were going to fly out the window shield,” said Griffin, who was sitting in the bus’s front row next to fullback Darrel Young.

Griffin said he thought some of his teammates had gotten whiplash from the accident, and he said it was an eye-opening event for the team.

“A lot of guys had their lives flash before their eyes, and it was not a good moment,” he said. “You don’t expect that being on a bus heading to a game … especially a wreck that bad that could have been catastrophic.”