- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

The Washington Redskins boarded their flight to Osaka, Japan, yesterday for Saturday's exhibition opener against the San Francisco 49ers bearing their baggage and mixed feelings.

Players have been excited about the debut of coach Steve Spurrier and eager to gauge their progress in what has been an upbeat and promising training camp in Carlisle, Pa. But several groused privately about the trip's 13½-hour plane ride and cumbersome nature, and even those who are upbeat acknowledge that the journey isn't easy.

"It's not the most convenient, but it's kind of interesting," linebacker Eddie Mason said a few days ago in Carlisle. "I'm somewhat excited, but then another part of me is like, 'I wish we could stay here.' [Overall] I think it will be good for us not a relaxed mindset, but we'll break away and have a change of environment."

Offensive tackle Jon Jansen acknowledged that if he was asked to design a camp schedule, he wouldn't split it with a five-day trip to the other side of the world. But he added: "It's just something that the NFL wants us to do. We'll go do it, and it'll be a good experience for everybody, I think."

Players will get to absorb a little culture, even if they'll mostly be traveling, practicing and attending meetings and, on their free time, generally sticking to their American favorites.

"I'm not down with the sushi," linebacker Jessie Armstead said. "Fry that fish up and I'll eat it, but not raw. They're always going to have a McDonald's."

The NFL arranges preseason games abroad (usually between one and three per season) in an effort to expand its global reach. Washington last played such an exhibition in 1992, the summer after winning Super Bowl XXVI. The club played in London and the 49ers were the opponent. Washington lost 17-15.

This time the Redskins were selected after expressing an interest last season, when both owner Dan Snyder and coach Marty Schottenheimer were keen on going. This year Snyder has told associates that the NFL made his club go. Spurrier, for his part, hasn't expressed much of an opinion about the trip.

"Oh, shoot, it's my first year," Spurrier said. "Maybe it's the way to do it. I don't know."

Several players already know some of what to expect. Kicker Brett Conway played a preseason game in Tokyo as a Green Bay Packer in the 1998 preseason.

"It's neat to go over there, but the time change is tough," Conway said. "Great experience. It's a free trip to Japan. The only thing that's not any fun about it is it's literally four days. And by the fourth day, when you finally play the game, you're acclimated to the time change and you've got to fly back over."

Having looked at the itinerary, Conway believes he will have less free time on this trip than he did with Green Bay. And even the last time he remembers having little time for tourist activities and little motivation because of the long journey. However, he doesn't believe the excursion took anything away from the Packers' preparation.

"No, I don't think so," Conway said. "Most teams play four [preseason] games. This is just another game. So it's actually just giving us another week of training camp."

Offensive tackle Chris Samuels already has traveled to Osaka, accompanying club officials there this spring in preparation for this week. His favorite activity was seeing a sumo match "The real Big Daddy over here [defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson] would be Little Daddy over there," Samuels joked. And he doesn't recall the plane ride being much of a problem.

Of course, Samuels might be more able than others to ignore lengthy journeys.

"I slept maybe 10 hours of the trip," he said with a smile. "I love to sleep. For example, if I didn't have practice today or anything to do, I'd probably just be getting out of bed right now [at about 6 p.m.]."

Samuels came away from Osaka impressed with its cleanliness and the politeness of its residents. He thinks his teammates will enjoy the trip, though he believes they shouldn't go there looking for a good time.

"[Players should] get their mind ready to play a game," Samuels said. "It's a business trip."

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