- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2000

I love the smell of Atomic Balm in the morning. It smells like … football.

Yes, friends, it's that time again. The Redskins opened training camp yesterday with 35 rookies, returning gimps (injured guys) and assorted others in attendance. The only truants were first-round picks LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels, and that's only a temporary condition. By Thursday, when the full squad is due to report, the Snydermen should be one, big, happy family except maybe for Stephen Davis, the reluctant franchise player.

You couldn't ask for a more eventful or stress-free offseason than the one the Redskins just had. Not only did they stock the roster with the likes of Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jeff George and two of the top three selections in the draft, they also avoided any off-field disasters no small accomplishment in the NFL these days. The worst thing that happened to them was Mike Sellers getting pulled over for driving crooked. Some of the NFC's other contenders probably wish they were so lucky. Consider:

The defending champion Rams lost their coach and two starting offensive linemen.

The Vikings, lacking an alternative, handed their quarterback job to untested Daunte Culpepper.

The Packers had to deal with the Mark Chmura mess.

The Lions saw Charlie Batch get hurt again.

The Bucs' vaunted defense took a hit when tackling machine Hardy Nickerson went to Jacksonville.

In the NFC East, meanwhile, the Cowboys changed coaches, the Cardinals released Eric Swann and the Giants and Eagles did little to excite the imagination. This is good news for the Redskins, who, if memory serves, won the division by two games last year. Here's how ridiculously well the offseason went for them: After bringing in Smith to pester opposing passers, they still managed to hang onto Marco Coleman, who agreed to switch from right to left end. Darn swell of him, don't you think?

About the only way the offseason could have gone better for the Redskins is if Anthony Cook had re-signed. Alas, he jumped to the Jets at the last minute. (Which makes me wonder: Perhaps Dan Snyder has decided to rid the organization of all Cooks/Cookes you know, to make a clean break with the past. We'll know for sure if needs a running back at some point and doesn't try to lure Cookie Gilchrist out of retirement.)

Dan the Man certainly has assembled an impressive-sounding team. The Redskins now have four players who were the No. 1 pick in draft Fryar ('84), Smith ('85), George ('90) and Dan Wilkinson ('94). There are only nine other No. 1s still in the league, and only the Browns have more than one (Tim Couch and Courtney Brown). Four is a bunch. Four smacks of hoarding.

So, naturally, I asked Norv Turner yesterday: "Was there anything you needed in the offseason that you didn't get?" an ambidextrous quarterback, maybe, or a non-basketball-playing punter?

(It's amazing, it really is. The Redskins have brought in so many big names, so many bona fide stars, that hardly anyone noticed when they signed Andre Reed… . Whoops, my mistake. The Andre Reed in camp is a free agent linebacker from Jackson State.)

Anyway, this was Norv's answer to my question: "I think in this system teams always have needs. But I don't know that anybody addressed them as well as we did. I think we have a complete football team. We still check the waiver wire every day, though. You never know when you're going to find a guy who can help you."

Still, Turner has more talent to work with than ever before. Compare his front four now (Coleman, Wilkinson, Dana Stubblefield, Smith) to the one he had his first year in '94 (Tony Woods, Bobby Wilson, Tim Johnson and Sterling Palmer). Heck, Darrell Green, a future Hall of Famer, is penciled in as the nickel back this season and George, who might not even get on the field, put up Pro Bowl-type numbers last year with the Vikings.

With expectations so high Super Bowl, anyone? some players are going to be awfully upset if they don't make this team. Getting cut from the 2000 Redskins will be like getting kicked off the island in "Survivor." I wouldn't want to be the Turk on Aug. 27 (but if I were, I'd wear a helmet and pads).

Actually, one player is already a trifle upset: Brian Mitchell, who was deemed extraneous when Deion came to town. Mitchell has since taken up residence in Philadelphia so he can torment his old club twice a year. His No. 30 jersey is now being worn by LaFann Williams, a rookie cornerback out of Central Florida.

Imagine Brian breaking a long one against the Redskins this season and Williams missing a tackle. Boy, the spit will really hit LaFann then.

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