- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2000

After weeks of wondering and three days of semantics, the Washington Redskins should have just one holdout when the full squad opens training camp today at Redskin Park.

As the standoff continued last night between the team and franchise player Stephen Davis, rookie linebacker LaVar Arrington was almost certain he would join the team for this afternoon's practice in pads.

"It looks very, very, very, very, very good," Arrington said from his parents' home outside Pittsburgh. "The likelihood of me being there is extremely good right now… . I'm a man of my word. I said I'll be in there on time, and everything [looks that way]."

But Davis will not, becoming the first official holdout after observers spent three days debating whether the absences of Arrington and rookie offensive tackle Chris Samuels (for 1 1/2 days) constituted such. Rookies, quarterbacks and selected veterans practiced Monday through yesterday.

Davis' holdout and Arrington's likely arrival highlight the club's first training camp in Ashburn, Va., following five years in Frostburg, Md., and 31 in Carlisle, Pa. While Redskins fans ages 13 and up become the NFL's first to pay to watch camp practice, the team will keep hoping that its featured running back can resolve his contractual dispute.

"I expect Stephen to be here tomorrow," coach Norv Turner said in an afternoon news conference. "If he isn't, I expect him to be here Friday. He needs to be here. He knows it. He's a big, big part of what we do."

Before the evening interview with Arrington, league sources said a late dispute had developed within Arrington's camp about whether to accept the virtually complete contract.

"I didn't nix it," Arrington said when asked about the dispute. "I just wanted to make sure everything was exactly right… . There's going to be no slipping through the cracks, no moving too fast."

Arrington wouldn't guarantee his arrival but said, "If I'm not there, it's not because of me and my [agents]. I know that."

However, Arrington also said he was torn by the conflicting emotions of wanting to get to camp and wanting the perfect contract.

"It's a little bit of both," said the draft's second overall pick. "I'm ready to be down there with the team. I wish contract negotiations could go easier and smoother than they do. But the position I'm put in, I'm forced to be a businessman."

Arrington's contract is set for six years with a $10.75 million signing bonus and a voidable seventh season. It will average about $6 million annually before incentive and escalator clauses kick in. Agent Carl Poston was at a hotel near Redskin Park finalizing the deal with Redskins chief negotiator Joe Mendes.

Meanwhile, Davis' dispute continues to revolve around the Redskins' ability to use the franchise tag on him again next offseason. In April, Davis offered to sign a variation of the one-year tender that stipulated the Redskins could not re-tag him, but the team rejected it because of the stipulation.

"We're absolutely not going to let [the Redskins re-tag Davis]," agent Steve Weinberg said from Dallas. "If Stephen plays his one year, he's got to be able to hit the open market. We're not going to go through this again."

Davis must sign a variation of the tender at some point if the Redskins want to reuse the tag next season. The sides then could negotiate a multi-year extension while Davis participated in camp.

But neither side trusts the other to negotiate in good faith. Here's how each argument breaks down:

• If Davis signs the tender with a no-franchise stipulation, he will have the leverage of unrestricted free agency. Davis could reject the Redskins' extension offer (currently with a $5 million bonus, half of what he seeks) and, if he repeats his 1999 performance, capture an enormous deal similar to what Eddie George signed this week with the Tennessee Titans.

• If Davis signs the tender without a stipulation, the Redskins will have the leverage of naming him the franchise player in 2001. The team then could break off talks for a long-term deal, knowing that no matter how well Davis plays he remains their property.

"[The tag] is a rough situation," said quarterback Brad Johnson, the player most often mentioned as the Redskins' next franchise target. "People don't understand how the contracts go… . It's a fine line of trying to get things done. I think it's unfortunate that some players have to go through that."

Weinberg was incredulous that the Redskins still hadn't called.

"That absolutely blows my mind," Weinberg said. "It's pretty obvious to me that they don't want Stephen Davis at training camp."

Weinberg believes franchise rules should be changed to keep players from being tagged twice in a row.

Johnson, whose contract expires after this season, seemed to agree. Asked if he could imagine being franchised two consecutive years, the Pro Bowl passer replied, "No. That would be ridiculous."

Notes The morning walk-through was canceled and practice moved up to avoid afternoon showers. If the situation occurs in the future, team officials said, fans should check the team's Web site (www.redskins.com) and listen to local broadcasts… .

Rookie fullback Bryan Johnson spent most of practice throwing up because of a stomach inflammation. Johnson said "rotten food" might have caused the illness and added that he was getting medicine in the afternoon… .

The Redskins signed fourth-year offensive lineman Ed Ellis and waived former Howard offensive lineman Mpumi Masimini… . Running back Norman Miller sat out practice with a bruised hip.

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