- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2001

CARLISLE, Pa. Top draft pick Rod Gardner will join the Washington Redskins' training camp today after ending his holdout last night by agreeing to a five-year, $7.7 million contract.
Gardner, a powerful 6-foot-2 wide receiver taken 15th overall, will report after a stalemate with Redskins management that lasted five full days. The sides agreed to the basic structure of the deal Saturday two days before camp opened but talks broke down over whether the pact should include incentive clauses.
A compromise finally was brokered here at Dickinson College after agent Joel Segal arrived for face-to-face negotiations at about 10 a.m. The deal was completed at about 6 p.m. after Segal met several times with Redskins contract negotiator Mark Levin and director of football operations Russ Ball. Gardner boarded a plane in Atlanta and was scheduled to arrive here late last night.
"I was excited [when Segal called to say the deal was done]," Gardner said by phone. "I was ready for it to be done. I was relieved. Now I want to get to camp and show what I can do."
Meanwhile, several Redskins starters missed parts or all of practices with injuries. Quarterback Jeff George continued to suffer a sore arm and threw only lightly in both sessions, while linebacker LaVar Arrington (sprained shoulder) and tight end Stephen Alexander (strained hamstring) remained sidelined.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer continued to play down George's injury while saying the quarterback might refrain from hard throws until Monday.
"We'd like to have him out there, obviously, but as I've said before, we don't want to take a short-term thing and make it into something long," Schottenheimer said. "And of course the other side of it is [George's rest] gives these young guys a chance to work, which is good because they're going to play the bulk of the first preseason game."
Arrington acknowledged that his sprained joint is "painful" rather than simply uncomfortable. However, he hopes to resume some type of activity within the next day or so.
"Even before I can hit, I'm going to try to get back out here," Arrington said. "So even if I'm just running around, that's what I [will be] doing."
Gardner joins workouts as a backup behind Michael Westbrook and Kevin Lockett, but he is expected to challenge Lockett for a starting job by the time camp ends Aug. 23.
Gardner said he doesn't "have a clue" how much work he missed while being absent from four days of full-squad camp and three days of practices for rookies, quarterbacks and veterans returning from injuries. But he felt confident that his work in offseason practices would be enough for him to acclimate quickly.
"I've got to get back in that football groove," Gardner said. "I've been running and working out. That's nothing compared to that game shape I've got to be in, but I'm ready to work hard."
Gardner's $5.1 million signing bonus is being paid in two installments, $3.3 million immediately and $1.8 million in an option in the spring. The option triggers the contract's fifth year; the way it is structured, Washington essentially is compelled to pick it up.
Most first-round deals this year have tiered bonuses in order to evade the "Deion Sanders rule." The rule takes cap value out of the later years of high-bonus, low-salary contracts and puts it into earlier years. A delay in ratifying an extension to the collective bargaining agreement has left the rule with a stiff impact this season.
No incentives (goals that trigger instant payouts) were added to the deal, league sources said, other than standard clauses for winning rookie of the year or reaching the Pro Bowl. The Redskins compromised by increasing the contract's total value and package of escalators (goals that trigger higher future salaries). Gardner's escalators could add $2.6 million to the final two seasons of the contract, sources said.
Contrary to a published report, the Redskins were not prepared to begin taking money off the table if Gardner did not sign soon. Owner Dan Snyder used that tactic with Arrington last summer but sources close to the situation said it was never seriously considered in this deal.
Notes Schottenheimer ran full-contact team drills for 20 extra minutes at the end of the morning practice. Mistakes were made, which the coach attributed to the session's greater speed and heightened sense of pressure. But he was pleased with the results, saying, "We had that work to get done today, and not only did they push through a long practice, but they pushed through a tough one." …
The Redskins remain uninterested in acquiring Trent Dilfer or another free agent quarterback. Said Schottenheimer: "There's no one available at this time, in light of where we are, that gives me any sense we need to go in that direction."

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