- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2000

A lot of reunions. Plenty of fresh faces looking lost. A coach eager to start anew.

The Washington Redskins prepared for Friday's start of a three-day minicamp with quick individual meetings, physicals and plenty of introductions Thursday at Redskin Park. Newcomers arrived by the van load, and many veterans met six new assistant coaches. Even offensive line coach Russ Grimm drew a few second looks after shedding 20 pounds and his trademark mustache.

The three months since Tampa Bay edged Washington 14-13 in the NFC playoffs have proven long enough for the Redskins to get over the frustrating defeat. With 55 of 96 players not even on the playoff roster, it seemed easier to look ahead than behind.

"Every April, you start over in minicamp," coach Norv Turner said. "What you did a year ago doesn't matter, whether it's as a team or a player. The core group is all back, plus a couple of additions in the draft, so I'm excited to get working. We have a lot of areas we can improve."

Like a 28th-ranked defense that now has a restructured coaching staff and incoming starters in end Bruce Smith, safety Mark Carrier and linebacker LaVar Arrington. Or special teams that will sport a new punter, deep snapper and possibly returner. And an offense that scored the third most points in team history but still wasn't as fluid as quarterback Brad Johnson prefers.

"We had a tremendous year, but we can play better in certain areas on the field," Johnson said. "There's certain things for me I'd like to pick up quicker, be more decisive."

Certainly rookie offensive tackle Chris Samuels and Arrington are the centerpieces of the busy offseason. Turner doesn't plan on pampering the two first-round picks, though.

"We're going to throw an awful lot at them," he said. "They're going to come away in a state of shock."

Running back Stephen Davis remains sidelined four months after suffering a sprained ankle. Turner said Davis will only participate in conditioning and classwork. Defensive end Anthony Cook (shoulder) also will not work out.

"Stephen's making progress," Turner said. "He's just a ways away from playing football right now."

The 27 rookie free agents must impress Turner to return for training camp July 21. The Redskins have to cut 13 of 96 current players before camp. Three players in NFL Europe are roster exemptions until the final cuts. Turner felt bringing in a larger number of players could produce a sleeper or two.

"We need depth. People have proven if you bring in a few extra guys, you can … find a player," Turner said.

While minicamp doesn't have the intense hitting of training camp, the twice-daily practices provide a fair barometer of the team's offseason conditioning program.

"Guys that go through [minicamp] comfortably are on schedule," Turner said. "Guys who struggle a little bit, it's an indicator to them that they're behind."

Meanwhile, former Redskins receiver Charlie Brown joined the scouting staff. Brown played with Washington from 1982 to 1984. He spent last season as Mississippi Valley State's offensive coordinator after interning with the Redskins during summer camp.

"Coaching is in my heart, but scouting is, too," said Brown, who will scout Northeast colleges. "There's a lot of talent out there, and just to size up the talent and bring it back to help the organization be a winner is a great deal."

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