- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2002

OSAKA, Japan Following a nearly 14-hour flight during which most players were too social or too cramped to sleep a groggy group of Washington Redskins arrived here yesterday for tomorrow's exhibition opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
The 13-hour time difference meant it already was Thursday evening and almost time for bed. Most players welcomed a chance to climb under the covers, having slept only an hour or two on the plane and then dozed a bit on the 45-minute bus trip to the hotel.
The itinerary began with a brief informational session with local FBI and DEA officials. Afterward, the team ate dinner and had some short football-related meetings after all it still is training camp before calling it a night.
"If we can get to bed about 10 tonight, get on a schedule over here, we'll be OK," said coach Steve Spurrier, whose pro coaching debut will come in the nationally televised preseason game against the 49ers. "That's what we're shooting for."
Meanwhile, some disappointing news accompanied the club overseas: young defensive end Otis Leverette suffered a fairly serious knee sprain Tuesday and will miss at least six weeks. Spurrier said surgery does not appear necessary at this time, but the Redskins will play the preseason without one of their better line prospects.
Leverette, 24, spent most of this offseason as the first-string right end in place of injured Bruce Smith. But Leverette began "pressing," according to coaches and had been demoted to second-string to find his rhythm.
Smith, following arthroscopic surgery on both knees, is expected to resume practice soon and be ready for the Sept.8 opener. For now, fourth-year player Carl Powell is the starting right end, but his thick frame is more suited to the left side or interior. In contrast, the 6-foot-6, 278-pound Leverette has the athleticism and wiry body that make him ideal to attack quarterbacks' blind sides.
"He was making strides there," defensive line coach Ricky Hunley said. "This time was really critical for his continued development. He's a good football player with a lot of upside potential. You hate to see a guy get hurt right in the middle of camp. You really like to see him get out and play those games."
Some young players who did make the trip studied their playbooks on the plane in particular, some of the rookies who were too big for their economy-class seats (most veterans sat in business class).
But the majority of players spent the trip talking, watching movies, reading magazines and playing games and pranks. Linebacker LaVar Arrington engaged in board games like chess, socialized and at one point put mustard on rookie Akil Smith's lips as the latter slept.
Arrington was still laughing about the practical joke before he went to his meeting, though he spoke more seriously of the trip in general.
"We're in Japan and we're in the second week of training camp, so you try to keep everything in the proper perspective," Arrington said. "We're here to play. We're here to show that we're going to be a legitimate contender. But at the same time we're here to have a good time and bring some football and some U.S. culture over here."
Linebacker Eddie Mason is the team's players' association representative along with safety Sam Shade. He used the free time to recruit rookies into the union. He also studied the Bible with linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and talked with defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson about Wilkinson's affinity for cars.
"We stayed up for the most part until about the last three hours," Mason said. "I wasn't really tired until I got on the bus. That's when I really fell asleep. By the time we got to the hotel, I was like, 'I'm tired.' Right now I'm ready to go to bed."
Players have two days of practice for a game that is taking on more significance than the average (read: meaningless) preseason contest. The location has something to do with it but it's more about Spurrier's debut.
Arrington admitted being intrigued by his first look at the coach's famous offense in professional action. Spurrier, however, seemed a bit tired of the subject (not to mention the trip) and placed emphasis only on the potential competition.
"It's a little bit like a bowl game," Spurrier said. "Sometimes those bowl games don't mean a heck of a lot in college. But we keep score, so there's a winner and a loser. I'm sure they're going to try to win and we're going to try to win, so it could be a heck of a game."


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