- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2000

Finally, it's about football again. After an ambitious offseason of signing marquee free agents, drafting the second and third overall players and planning the first local training camp in 55 years, the Washington Redskins begin workouts today.

More than 40 rookies, quarterbacks and select veterans reported yesterday. They'll practice three days before veterans return Thursday when workouts open to the public. First-round selections LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels aren't expected to attend even though their contracts are nearly complete. The deals are expected to be announced soon and the team anticipates that both players will be practicing by Thursday.

The opening sessions allow coaches to concentrate on finding one or two undrafted rookies who might make the team. It also permits extra time with newcomers learning the system without the prospect of facing veterans or the hum of a crowd.

"You're still trying to get them caught up with the other guys so when [plays] go in they sound familiar," coach Norv Turner said. "They're not going against a [defensive end] Bruce Smith or trying to cover [tight end] Stephen Alexander. The mental is as important as the physical just to be in a rhythm. When everyone gets here it will speed up."

Quarterbacks work with rookie receivers so they're prepared for the veterans. Brad Johnson is the only returning passer. Free agent Jeff George, sixth-round pick Todd Husak and rookie free agent Leon Murray are the other quarterbacks reporting to camp.

"It's nice to get them started before the rest of the [veterans] so they're a little ahead of everyone else," Turner said.

Perhaps the only significant change caused by relocating training camp from the cooler western Maryland mountains to Ashburn will be water breaks and a misting tent.

"We made dramatic changes a year ago by not going in full pads during the morning," Turner said. "I hope we don't have to change a great deal. We use the same afternoon schedule since I've been here that was used in Los Angeles and Dallas [where Turner was an assistant coach]. We had a five-minute water break, and that's what we'll do here."

Meanwhile, negotiations continue over the final details of Arrington's and Samuels' deals. Both players have agreed to seven-year deals with the final season voidable based on reaching playing-time clauses. Arrington will receive a $10.75 million bonus while Samuels gets $10 million. Escalator clauses in the final years of the deals are among the final details remaining, though one source close to the talks cautioned they're worth tens of millions of dollars and wouldn't be rushed through.

Still, the deals are expected to be completed shortly. Players could practice as soon as Wednesday. Arrington will replace Greg Jones as an outside linebacker while Samuels should supplant Andy Heck as left offensive tackle.

Turner urged both rookies to report soon because they need time to learn the playbook. Both players missed some offseason practices. A strained hamstring sidelined Samuels for two days of minicamp in April. Arrington skipped the first week of quarterback school in June for the birth of his first child.

The Redskins have ambitious plans for Arrington. He'll play defensive end on third down passing situations and move across the field in various schemes. Any delay in contract talks could force the Redskins to scale back Arrington's responsibilities. Samuels' tasks are more limited, but any of his mistakes could be harmful to Johnson.

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