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Rebuilt Redskins get pieces in place for fun and gun


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On Football | Rebuilt Redskins get pieces in place for fun and gun

By Mike Bruton

Inquirer Columnist

ASHBURN, Va. - He's not a Gator but Laveranues Coles fits the profile of a Steve Spurrier wide receiver.

The Washington Redskins head coach took some heat for bringing too many former University of Florida players last year in his rookie season as an NFL head coach.

Looking at the Redskins' 7-9 season, that heat was deserved. It became very clear very fast that quarterbacks Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel - though Wuerffel has been brought back - weren't going to cut it.

The same went for wideouts Jacquez Green and Chris Doering.

Spurrier seemed to be looking for familiarity when he should have been looking for a strong arm and speed.

This season, Patrick Ramsey, though young and still raw, has the arm and Coles definitely has the speed. Throw in speedy running backs Trung Canidate and Chad Morton along with a corps of other wideouts with wings on their heels and the Redskins start looking like the wide-open, big-play offense that Spurrier is known for.

Coles benefited greatly from being with the New York Jets last season as Chad Pennington blossomed into a complete quarterback. He caught 89 of the 130 balls Pennington threw his way, for 1,264 yards and five touchdowns.

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder reached in his wallet for $35 million and gave Coles, a free agent, a seven-year deal. Many critics said Snyder overpaid.


The idea was to provide Spurrier a deep threat, the kind that makes cornerbacks and safeties back off a yard or two, so he can reproduce his Fun 'n Gun NFL-style.

"You have to look at the fact that Coach Spurrier is here with a pass-happy offense," Coles said. "It's a receiver's dream. You can be successful anytime the ball is in the air that many times a game. That's what really was the final [reason for the] decision to come here."

Did somebody mention $35 million?

"It was a little bit of both," Coles acknowledged without blushing. "That's what business is about. Business is business. There's no loyalty in this business at all."

Coles didn't wait around to see how many other teams were going to step up.

The San Diego Chargers signed David Boston to a $47 million deal and the dominoes started to fall quickly. Peerless Price went for $42 million to the Atlanta Falcons, and it wasn't long before Coles' phone rang.

Obviously, the Jets weren't prepared to cough up $35 million to match the Redskins' offer, but one would think that a promising young receiver entering his fourth NFL season might want to hang around and play with Pennington in his prime.

Ramsey certainly has the talent, but he isn't quite complete yet.

"It's risk in anything," Coles said. "I could've returned to New York and something could've happened to Pennington, or we could've gotten more focused on the running game or the line wasn't strong enough for us to get the ball down the field.

"Every time you step on a football field you're taking a risk."

You might as well be richer while you're taking the risk, a cynic might add, but there is some logic in a person who runs the 40-yard dash under 4.3 seconds wanting to be with a team whose coach likes to throw long.

Pennington, who doesn't have a particularly strong arm, is more of a short-to-mid-range thrower who makes great decisions and is very accurate.

Ramsey is a different kind of animal, a Spurrier type of animal.

"He's a courageous young man," Spurrier said of his second-year quarterback. "He can throw it real hard and real far. He just needs to play a lot."

The greatest:Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown was the guest of 2002 leading rusher Ricky Williams at the Miami Dolphins training camp.

The two have struck up a friendship that has grown to a master-apprentice relationship.

"I consider him the greatest of all time," Williams said. "I only aspire to be half as good as he was, to be that dominant."

Other camp celebs:Andrew Young, former Atlanta mayor, U.S. congressman and ambassador to the United Nations, visited the Atlanta Falcons training camp.

Former Oklahoma and New England Patriots coach Chuck Fairbanks made more than a visit to the Dallas Cowboys' camp.

Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells, a close friend of Fairbanks, put him and former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin to work.

Fairbanks observed that the 'Pokes - with high-quality wideouts Terry Glenn, Joey Galloway and Antonio Bryant - don't run too many three-wide formations.

He gave Parcells a little advice.

"We started talking about the Philadelphia 76ers," said Parcells, "when they had [Darryl] Dawkins, [Julius] Erving and George McGinnis and one ball. There's going to be a time when these receivers... are going to be disappointed because there is only one ball."

Fairbanks gathered up the wideouts and explained to them the benefits of patience in a team concept.

Even-handed: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Peter Warrick was signing autographs after practice when a teammate noticed he was writing with his left hand even though he is righthanded.

"I can do it with both," Warrick said matter-of-factly.

Lip service:Much has been said about the game last season when Falcons quarterback Michael Vick stepped into the huddle and broke out a tube of Chapstick lip balm.

It might've had to do with something more than dry lips.

"He hasn't told you what his contract was with Chapstick yet," joked Falcons head coach Dan Reeves. "If he has Chapstick, he's going for it."

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