The Washington Times - December 31, 2009, 04:57PM

Dear readers,

After 23 years at The Times, 18 covering the Redskins and/or NFL, I’m done.


As you know, we’re shutting down our sports section after today. Amazing. I came to the 4-year-old Times in 1986, wondering if it or I would last more than a couple of years.

But Washington was home and I could only take so many winters in Syracuse, so I gambled. I was hired to cover colleges during an incredible year — Lefty Driesell and Bobby Ross were both about to quit at Maryland, David Robinson was a Navy senior and Reggie and the Miracles came within a game of getting Georgetown back to the Final Four.

I moved on to cover the ‘89 “Why Not” Orioles and got my first taste of the Redskins that fall. I was put on the Caps with a month to go in 1990, the spring when John Druce went loose all the way to the conference finals.

Three years later, I was back on the Redskins. Joe Gibbs quit on my fifth day and it was pretty much all downhill from there. I’ve covered the team and/or the NFL since even during  2003 when I filled in on the-then dreadful Caps’ beat.

I want to make special mention of former GM Charley Casserly and P.R. man Chris Helein, each of whom you could trust not to steer you wrong. Paul Woody from Richmond, Jim Ducibella from Norfolk and the late Warner Hessler from Newport News helped teach me the beat as did my first Times partner, Jeff Hardie. To all of them, I’m thankful. The same holds for ace photographer Ross Franklin, who helped make training camp in Frostburg bearable.

And thanks to all the assistant coaches and others behind the scenes at Redskin Park for sharing your secrets and your wisdom. And I can’t forget such esteemed national colleagues as Peter King, John Clayton, Len Pasquarelli and Alex Marvez for their help and advice over the years. It was an honor to serve as an officer of the Pro Football Writers of America, especially as its President for two years.

While 1993, the year that everything collapsed under Richie Petitbon was the worst season, the past two might have been the best because of the class and cooperation of Jim Zorn, Jason Campbell and P.R. man Zack Bolno. I will always be thankful for their much-needed assistance and dignity, especially on the heels of the 2007 season that was marred by Sean Taylor’s murder and didn’t end until Zorn’s hiring after a month-long search.

I want to say a special thanks to my favorite beat partner, Rick Snider, my favorite editor, Gary Hopkins, and my longtime colleague John Keim, who like Rick is now with The Examiner.  A shout-out to my computer guru John Pappas and to Hall of Famer Vito Stellino for teaching me so much and bequeathing me his freelance clients. And thanks to Mike Keating for hiring me in 1986, Dick Heller for his tireless support and bad jokes and to columnist extraordinaire Dan Daly, Dave Hutchinson, Kisha Ciabattari, Jody Foldesy, Ryan O’Halloran and of course, Rick, for putting up with me as a beat partner all these years.

Covering the Redskins with such colleagues as Joseph White of the AP, Larry Duvall of Channel 9/Comcast and Liz Clarke of the Post was a pleasure. WTOP’s Steve Dolge always made me laugh. And it was a thrill to hang with such legends as Sonny Jurgensen, Sam Huff, Frank Herzog and Ken Beatrice. That goes for you, too, Satch, my favorite cameraman. We’ll always have Michael Westbrook. :)

So many players have shared their lives with me, but among the best were (in no particular order): Brad Edwards, Ray Brown, Renaldo Wynn, Phillip Daniels, Trevor Matich, Casey Rabach, Ethan Albright, Charles Mann, Raleigh McKenzie, Gus Frerotte, Cornelius Griffin, Ken Harvey, Fred Smoot, London Fletcher, Darrell Green, Eddie Mason, Jon Jansen, Derrick Frost, Santana Moss, Mark Schlereth, Brian Mitchell, Tre Johnson, Joe Patton, Kenard Lang, Richie Owens, Marc Boutte, Patrise Alexander, Matt Sinclair, Lemar Marshall, Joe Salave’a, Henry Ellard, LaVar Arrington, Champ Bailey, Chris Samuels, N.D. Kalu, Darryl Pounds, Marvcus Patton, Shar Pourdanesh, Trent Green, Brad Johnson, Ryan Kuehl, Demetric Evans, DeAngelo Hall, Ryan Clark, Shawn Springs, Andre Carter, Antwaan Randle El, Pete Kendall, Leigh Torrence, Lorenzo Alexander, Reed Doughty, Carlos Rogers and Rock Cartwright. 

Helping get Darrell and Art Monk into the Hall of Fame in 2008 and having them mention me in their speeches was a high point, but today is a low point. I will miss covering the Redskins. I was a footloose 20-something when I first got the finger-wag from Joe Gibbs. I leave four weeks shy of 50 with two terrific teenage daughters.

A final thanks to you, the readers. I hope I have educated, entertained and most important, informed you, over these last 23 years. I hope I have reported on your teams and their players honestly and fairly.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll be back covering the Redskins down the road in some other venue.

— David Elfin