From left, former Washington Redskins player Ken Harvey, Reps. Robert Dold and Jon Runyan, Donna Wilkinson of the womens football team D.C. Divas, and Rep. Scott DesJarlais run during a Congressional football practice on the Mall.
In practices, a number of players take hard hits, and in past games, the intensity has been undeniable.
“In that first game [Capitol Police players] tore my ear off. It took 14 stitches to sew it back up,” Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said. “We had a big pileup, and when I came out, my ear was flapping in the wind.”
But it’s not all cake for the Capitol Police either. Ron Potter, a K-9 tech and captain of the Capitol Police team, explained the tactics and rules the Congressional side put in place to even the playing field against a team that includes not only Runyan but also former Washington Redskins player Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.).
“Rep. Heath Shuler came in and they got some NFL guys to come. They did quite a few things, they shortened the playing field down a little bit, tried to take away some of the speed,” Potter said. “That’s great for us; it just feels better when you win.”
Former NFL player and 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker has also said he’ll play for the Congressional team. “If Herschel Walker gets anywhere near me I’m going to fall to the ground,” said Officer Erin Robinson, a running back for the Capitol Police.
Others aren’t as intimidated by the help Congress is getting from former NFL players.
“I like sacking Shuler and giving him a hard time,” K-9 tech Irvin Washington said.
Ty Bond, a First Response Team officer, plays to support the charities and because it gives his kids a chance to see that their dad can still get out there and play.
“Last [time] we got complacent. Us losing got us dedicated and focused,” Bond said. “It won’t even be close.”
With that statement still lingering in the brisk morning air, Bond ran back to the scrimmage line just in time for the snap, keeping his eyes on the football. In a matter of seconds, before the offense realized it, Bond made a leaping catch, intercepting the ball right in front of the intended receiver, and ran it all the way back.
Jokes, laughter and smack talk filled the air. Bond jokingly told his teammates, “I had said, ‘Watch this.’”
Aside from the playful trash talking that both sides dish out, they are in agreement on one thing: the cause.
“Well, as always it will be a hard-fought battle. A bunch of old guys against a bunch of young guys,” Shuster said. “But at the end of the game, everyone wins because we think we will raise over $100,000 for the benevolent fund for the police and their kids.”