- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2000

In an offseason of blockbuster acquisitions, the Washington Redskins' best move may have been re-signing defensive end Marco Coleman.
Incoming cornerback Deion Sanders and defensive end Bruce Smith are headed for the Hall of Fame, and first-round linebacker LaVar Arrington is supposed to be the next Lawrence Taylor. However, improving the 30th-ranked defense means integrating the newcomers into incoming coordinator Ray Rhodes' system. Can the superstars jell into a cohesive unit? Will headliners become team players?
Coleman knows plenty about chemistry. From the first practice last season, he captured his new teammates' attention by regularly hustling to the ball. Coleman also planned off-field activities that many players like receiver Michael Westbrook said had been lacking in past seasons. The personable end quickly became the center of the locker room.
"You can see excitement coming out his ears on the field," linebacker Shawn Barber said. "That gets your motor running."
Coach Norv Turner downplays chemistry, saying playmakers are more important, and Coleman qualifies as a leader there, too. His 44 quarterback pressures led the Redskins, and his 6 and 1/2 sacks were the second most. Coleman commands respect among teammates not only for his play but his savvy in difficult times.
"Everyone knows how to handle adversity when you're going well," Turner said. "During every season, you're going to have tough times, and veteran players usually handle that better."
Now the Redskins are asking Coleman to return to the left side after spending last season on the right. Following Smith's signing for right end, the Redskins gave Coleman a $3 million bonus to retain the unrestricted free agent. While his 6-foot-3, 267-pound frame may be a little better suited for the right side, which faces fewer running plays, Coleman said it really doesn't matter where he plays.
"They might run a little more to my side, but the same things have to be done," he said. "I still have to get off blocks and make tackles. There's not a big difference. Things aren't as difficult. You don't have as much to think about. Some people get so used to being on one side of the field they can't make the mental adjustment, but there are 320-pound guys on both sides."
Coleman played left end while leading San Diego linemen in tackles from 1996 to '98. The 1992 Sports Illustrated Rookie of the Year was part of San Diego's leading run defense in 1998. Returning to the left side for Coleman simply means changing which hand he plants in the dirt.
Still, it would have been easy for Coleman to complain after enjoying a solid season on the right despite joining the team one month before training camp. Coleman earned three game balls, including consecutive weeks against the New York Giants and Jets. He scored on a 42-yard fumble return against the Giants. However, Coleman didn't mind moving considering that Smith is his successor.
"If I did it with a bad state of mind, it would have been a harder adjustment," Coleman said. "Whatever I can to do to be involved with a winning team I'll do. I'm looking forward to playing with Bruce Smith, and if that means going to the left side then no problem."
Coleman realizes many incoming veterans would rather not become immediate leaders. He'll retain the role to lessen pressure on the marquee players.
"As long as everyone just concentrates on being themselves, there will be no problem [playing well]," Coleman said. "The problem comes when someone tries to do more to fit in or do more than necessary."

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