- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

What rain? Nothing like a football revival meeting to make fans ignore the worst weather of the summer.
More than 900 fans crowded under a tent near the Washington Redskins' practice fields yesterday, ready to believe the playoffs are possible this season. They came and stayed, even though the roof bulged dangerously with water and leaks spilled everywhere.
And it certainly didn't hurt the ambiance of the event that the mud evoked memories of the Hogs especially before a season in which the Redskins seek a return to their past glory under new coach Steve Spurrier.
"I'd rather be here where it's outside raining and looking poor than inside a five-star hotel cheering for the Dallas Cowboys," said former linebacker Ken Harvey, now president of the Redskins Alumni Association.
The welcome home luncheon left hotel banquet halls for the first time in nearly 40 years for Redskin Park in Ashburn. The NFL's first booster club affair turned into an informal picnic with games, though heavy rain trapped fans inside, creating an intimate affair. No matter, youngsters still ate snow cones and cotton candy and wondered why the adults acted like rowdy kids until Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff sternly ordered the crowd to be quiet during the awards ceremony.
The cheerleaders danced, the band played and the crowd chanted, "Four more years," to offensive tackle Jon Jansen, whose contract expires after this season. In a city passionate about politics and football, Redskins fans didn't mind dealing with a little bad weather for a chance for autographs, barbecue and pictures with players and coaches.
"I love football, so I don't mind the rain," said Jonathan Sachs of Silver Spring. "I just got my [Bruce Smith] jersey and wanted to try it out."
The players didn't mind the event either. They merely walked over from the locker room many with their families in tow wearing their jerseys instead of the previously required coat-and-tie.
"Being out in the rain, I feel like I'm back home in Michigan," Jansen said. "This was better than in the hotel."
Smith received one of the loudest cheers when the players walked through the crowd. Linebacker LaVar Arrington, the defensive player of the year, and Jansen, the offensive selection, were lauded, and the fans roared when cornerback Darrell Green's arrived.
The Redskins recognized the 42-year-old future Hall of Fame inductee with an award and did the same for longtime team employee B.J. Placard. Green grew misty-eyed while talking of his 20-year career, which will end in December.
"The Washington Redskins mean everything to me," Green said. "This community means everything to me."
The mood never matched the gray skies. WRC-TV sportscaster George Michael delivered sharp, witty remarks about players and coaches before raising $16,500 for three auctioned items that, along with the $150 tickets to yesterday's event, will help fund football field renovations, reading programs and academic coaches in high schools directed by the Redskins Leadership Council.
Finally, Spurrier delivered a brief plainspeak speech of his expectations. Predecessor Marty Schottenheimer promised a Super Bowl championship last year but started 0-5 and was fired in January. Spurrier was more reserved, referring to the playoffs as a possibility.
"We realize it's a long journey. Hopefully, we'll have three playoff games," Spurrier said. "The only message we tell our players is, we'll try to improve and enjoy the road as we go through this season."
At least they don't have fair-weather fans.

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