- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 24, 2002

CARLISLE, Pa. Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier promised a kinder, gentler training camp, but the first day ended without even a hard hit.

The afternoon practice was canceled because of a thunderstorm yesterday while players donned only shorts and shoulder pads during the blistering morning session. Spurrier believed first impressions came during the March minicamp so there wasn't a need to impress 300 fans.

The dreaded Oklahoma drill won't come until today when players finally don full pads, but Spurrier believes the camp is too long (a month) to work the team hard regularly. He plans a much slower pace than predecessor Marty Schottenheimer, who made last year's strenuous camp a personal power play over the roster.

"We're trying to be the best we can on Sept.8," Spurrier said of the regular-season opener. "Whatever it takes there's different philosophies. We try to shoot for balance. We try to hit enough, but not too much. We try to run enough and practice plenty without running ourselves in the ground."

Spurrier isn't a screamer. It takes a real bone-headed move to make the white visor fly. That easy-going approach has ingratiated Spurrier with players, who felt unappreciated by Schottenheimer.

"[Schottenheimer] took a lot of fun out of the football. It's sad that took place," defensive end Bruce Smith said. "There's a new life here. A new spirit with coach Spurrier."

Admittedly, most players prefer a coach that stresses mental reps over conditioning when twice daily practices cause tired legs to scream at night and muscles to ache constantly.

"It's very smart on Spurrier's part to save us now and later on we'll play hard," offensive tackle Chris Samuels said. "I don't really like to bang each other in practice all day."

Still, some things never change during the opening of camp. There was the usual opening media mania with the biggest press corp since the 1991 Super Bowl season. Cornerback Darrell Green fumbled through a Japanese commercial for the preseason opener on Aug.3 in Osaka, Japan, while even Spurrier cut a WWF-like promo. Players sat in large tubs of icy water to offset the 117-degree field temperatures. Linebacker LaVar Arrington chattered like a schoolboy on sugar. Owner Dan Snyder departed via helicopter.

The three-way quarterback competition opened with Danny Wuerffel, Shane Matthews and Sage Rosenfels rotating while first-round pick, quarterback Patrick Ramsey became an official holdout. The offense sometimes struggled against an expected top-10 rated defense with loose balls haunting the white jerseys. Cornerback Champ Bailey intimidated the passers, but each side earned victories on passing drills.

Spurrier spent most of practice with the offense. He entrusts the defense to coordinator Marvin Lewis. Special teams coach Mike Stock controlled the middle of practice searching for a punt returner among cornerbacks Fred Smoot, Darrell Green and Bailey plus receiver Jacquez Green.

The heat may have resembled his days with the Florida Gators, but there were no flashbacks for Spurrier. The new coach is simply trying to continue his usual style of working with the passing game. He was often asked the differences between the college and pro levels. Spurrier simply replied there were virtually none other than one blocking scheme.

"Once practice started we did a lot of the same things [as college]," he said. "I hang out with the quarterbacks and receivers."

Picking a quarterback will prove Spurrier's toughest challenge. Then again, he repeated the possibility of using several this season. Spurrier saw the opening practice as a wash between the trio. It doesn't figure to change for several weeks. All three made some plays. Each suffered some setbacks.

"Typical practice. Long way to go," Spurrier said.

After all, the regular season is 46 days away.

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