Heard on the Hill

Members Prepare to Take On Capitol Police in Football

Capitol Police have won the last three Congressional Football Games

Illinois Rep. Robert J. Dold looks for an open man to pass the ball as former NFL player Ken Harvey blocks the Guards’ Irvin Washington during the 2015 Congressional Football Game for Charity. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congress has been celebrating the Capitol Police for keeping them safe, especially after two officers took down a gunman in June at the Republicans’ baseball practice.

Members will get another chance at an upcoming charity sporting contest for Capitol Police officers. 

Wednesday’s Congressional Football Game for Charity will pit the Mean Machine, a bipartisan team of members of Congress and former NFL players, against the Guards, made up of Capitol Police officers. The teams’ names are taken from the classic football film “The Longest Yard.”

“We don’t get a chance to say ‘thank you’ to them as often as we’d like, so this is just a really good opportunity to thank them for their service,” said Rep. Jeff Denham, a team co-captain.

“This year is certainly special for David Bailey and Crystal Griner and what they’ve done for the House,” the California Republican said, referring to the two officers on House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s security detail who were credited with taking down the shooter in June.

Bailey is playing in this year’s game.

“We enjoy playing those guys. They beat the tar out of us every year but these are not just the folks that defend us, they’re our friends. We see them every day when you go into work,” said Minnesota Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, also a team co-captain.

The Capitol Police have won the past three games. But lawmakers have been practicing three days a week for more than a month.

“At 7 o’clock, you’re doing pushups,” Denham said.

Practice sessions are led by coaches Ken Harvey, formerly with the Washington Redskins, and John Booty, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles. 

And they aren’t easy. If the players are late to practice, they have to do pushups. 

“We’re certainly not Hall of Famers, but there’s a lot of folks who played when they were younger,” Walz said. “I think, more than anything, it’s just that camaraderie. We don’t do enough of this kind of stuff and it’s just really fun.”

Booty has been coaching the members’ team since the first game in 2005. He later brought on Harvey. 

“Half of it is the desire to learn and I’m kind of amazed that you see these congressmen and they’re like kids. The desire to learn is there,” Harvey said. “Teaching them in a couple of weeks in what takes a lifetime to learn is difficult but a lot of the guys are really putting a lot of effort into it and you can see day by day that they’re getting better.”

Rep. Bruce Westerman jumps up to catch a pass during practice on Thursday. (Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Bruce Westerman, in gray shirt, and Rep. Rodney Davis, in red shirt, attempts to catch a pass during practice on Thursday. (Alex Gangitano/ CQ Roll Call)

After warmups of quick feet and running, the team scrimmaged at its final practice Thursday.

Texas GOP Rep. Pete Sessions played quarterback, while fellow House members, California Democrat Jimmy Panetta and Oklahoma Republican Markwayne Mullin were clear standouts. Denham’s French bulldog Lily barked during practice at other dogs passing by. She plans on wearing her “ruff-eree” outfit to the game.

All the members were spirited to be out on the field before work.

Security was tighter than in years past; a few Capitol Police cars were parked around the field. Republican Reps. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee and Rodney Davis of Illinois, who were both at the ill-fated baseball practice in June, attended Thursday’s football practice.

The game is played every other year to avoid playing during election years.

“I understand the reason we do that is one time [Pennsylvania Rep.] Bill Shuster got two black eyes and it was in all his campaign literature,” Walz said. This is Walz’s third game and he is playing linebacker, the position he played in high school.

Denham is playing offensive line and linebacker, which is what he played at California Polytechnic State University.

“Since college, I’ve [played] very little,” he said. “[There was] the Turkey Bowl, which we used to play annually after college, and my wife put the kibosh on that pretty quickly afterwards because there were just as many injuries in that than there are in the Congressional Football Game.”

This is Denham’s fourth game. “We’ve been close to winning in the last couple of years,” he recalled. “This is our year.”

“We gotta win this year. It’s one of those things, it’s become lopsided,” added Harvey, who will play linebacker.

The $10 tickets raise money for the United States Capitol Police Memorial Fund, as well as Our Military Kids, and A Advantage 4 Kids.

Mean Machine

Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif.

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb.

Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-Calif.

Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich.

Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Mich.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill.

Rep. James R. Comer, R-Ky.

Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla.

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif.

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C.

Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va.

Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, D-Mass.

Rep. Roger Marshall, R- Kan.

Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.

Rep. Alex X. Mooney, R-W.Va.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla.

Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif.

Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y.

Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-La.

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas

Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif.

Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn.

Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark.

John Booty (Jets, Eagles, Cardinals, Giants, Bucs)

Ravin Caldwell (Redskins, 49ers)

Gary Clark (Redskins, Cardinals, Dolphins)

Derrick Fenner (Seahawks, Bengals, Raiders)

Brandon Frye (Texans, Dolphins, Seahawks)

Ken Harvey (Redskins, Cardinals)

Leon Joe (Bears, Bucs, Bills, Cards, Jaguars, Lions)

Darnerien McCants (Redskins, Eagles, Ravens)

Santana Moss (Redskins, Jets)

Shawn Springs (Seahawks, Redskins, Patriots)

Troy Vincent (Dolphins, Eagles, Bills, Redskins)

Herschel Walker (Cowboys, Vikings, Eagles, Giants)

The Guards

David Bailey

Larry Bell

Lisa Brewer

Tim Cullen

Jim Davis

Adam DesCamp

Arren Dodson

Harry Dunn

Scott Grossi

Milton Harris

Brett Jordan

Antwan McCall

Andrew McGill

Chad Nieto

Ron Potter

Frank Quick

John Sacks

Solomon Smith

Winston Sterling

Reggie Tyson

Irvin Washington

Brandon Watson

Travis Wells

Isaac West

Spencer Wilson

Correction 1:13 p.m. | An earlier version of this story misstated the number of consecutive Congressional Football Games that Capitol Police officers have won. They have won the last three games. 

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