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Sun Spot : Finding winning mix doesn't worry 'Skins


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Finding winning mix doesn't worry 'Skins

Spurrier, players unfazed despite roster turnover


By Edward Lee

Sun Staff

Originally published July 29, 2003

ASHBURN, Va. - When the Washington Redskins completed a whirlwind spring by signing 10 free-agent veterans, wooing away four restricted free agents and trading for a running back, team owner Daniel M. Snyder founded the moves on a three-year plan to return the Redskins to their gloried past.

But as Washington opened training camp at Redskins Park yesterday, the players acknowledged that developing the cohesion a championship-quality team needs is on a much faster track.

"I hope it only takes four weeks because that's all we've got," offensive tackle Jon Jansen said, alluding to Washington's season opener against the New York Jets on Sept. 4.

"That's the job that everybody in the NFL is faced with nowadays with free agency and such. We're not any different than anybody else. We've got new players. Everybody does. We've got to put it together."

Putting it together was the first part of Snyder's blueprint. After the team brain trust of Snyder, director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato and coach Steve Spurrier identified needs in the offensive line and at the wide receiving and running back positions, the Redskins brought in guards Dave Fiore and Randy Thomas, wide receiver Laveranues Coles and running backs Trung Canidate and Chad Morton.

Washington added depth by drafting Florida wide receiver Taylor Jacobs and Texas offensive lineman Derrick Dockery.

Throw in a new defensive coordinator in George Edwards (who replaced current Cincinnati Bengels coach Marvin Lewis) and a new offensive coordinator in Hue Jackson and getting used to all the new faces might be more difficult than anything an opponent might throw at the Redskins.

But players and coaches say they aren't worried about conjuring up some team chemistry. Players say the turmoil of free agency has forced them to adjust to the reality that few teams stay intact.

Spurrier, who has some experience with developing new players as he annually said goodbye to a class of seniors while coaching at Florida, said robust attendance at a series of minicamps and coaching sessions has helped some players develop a rapport.

"Training camp is just an extenuation of our coaching sessions through the summer," he said. "Most all these guys were here for that. The way we practiced today was very similar to what we did during the summer."

Only three players - defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson (acquired from Cincinnati in 1998), cornerback Champ Bailey (drafted in the first round in 1999) and Jansen (drafted in the second round in 1999) - were with the team before 2000.

But Bailey said no matter the changes in personnel, he is confident that the players will learn to play together quickly.

"We've got a lot of talent here," he said. "I don't think it will take as long as people think. If we get out here and work hard, the chemistry's going to be there."

NOTES: The Redskins kept Wilkinson out of morning and afternoon practices at training camp. Wilkinson, who was present but not dressed, and the team are still trying to rework his hefty, $3.5 million salary, which Washington wants drastically cut. Negotiations were put on hold when Wilkinson recently switched agents and his new agent might not be able to work on a new contract until later this week. Washington is wary about allowing Wilkinson to practice because if he gets injured, the team would not be permitted to release him and his contract would count against the club's tight salary cap. ... Running back Ladell Betts (personal reasons) and defensive back Bruce Branch (anterior cruciate ligament surgery) were the only no-shows at training camp. Branch, who tore the ligament in March playing for the Barcelona Dragons in NFL Europe, is not expected to return this season. Cornerback Lloyd Harrison (ruptured biceps tendon) was in uniform, but did not participate and isn't expected to be ready until early September, according to head trainer Dean Kleinschmidt. Defensive end Bruce Smith, who is three sacks away from breaking Reggie White's NFL record of 198, took part in the afternoon session. Kleinschmidt said Smith will engage in just one practice a day to preserve his knees. Thomas and cornerback Rashad Bauman both suffered mild leg cramps, but were OK. ... Bubba Tyer, a special assistant in the football operations office, announced his retirement. Tyer spent 25 of his 32 years with the team as the head trainer before moving to the front office last season.

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