- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 24, 2002

CARLISLE, Pa. The Washington Redskins and top draft pick Patrick Ramsey moved slowly in negotiations yesterday, holding no talks during the day despite the opening of training camp and the huge gap separating their positions.

A conversation was planned for the evening but there was no chance that would end Ramsey's holdout at one day. The quarterback, drafted 32nd overall, appears set to challenge Rod Gardner's four-day holdout last season and perhaps go longer.

By early evening the sides still hadn't agreed to any of the deal's aspects signing bonus, salaries, term, escalators or incentives. Contracts for first-round picks can be very complex, particularly for quarterbacks, because the escalator and incentive packages are layered for all types of potential performance scenarios.

Ramsey is the Redskins' fourth holdout in three seasons, joining Gardner, linebacker LaVar Arrington (three days, 2000) and cornerback Fred Smoot (two days, 2001). Two Redskins held out for significant amounts of time in the mid-1990s quarterback Heath Shuler (13 days, 1994) and receiver Michael Westbrook (26 days, 1995) each with apparent long-term ill effects.

Ramsey, however, is not expected to start this season. He earned a slim chance at the job with a solid end to the minicamps but remains behind more experienced Shane Matthews, Danny Wuerffel and Sage Rosenfels. Spurrier said Monday that Ramsey for now is in line to get some first-string work and perhaps start the third preseason game (Aug.18 vs. Pittsburgh).

Smith back soon?

Defensive end Bruce Smith spoke optimistically of practicing soon despite having arthroscopic procedures on both knees this offseason. Speculation has been that Smith would participate in little, if any, of camp, but he said his knees felt "really good" after running for trainers and hitting the bag a few times.

"We're going to talk to the doctors and determine at what point I am going to get back out there, but I anticipate it's going to be relatively soon," Smith said.

Other injury news wasn't good, though, as cornerback Kato Serwanga suffered a setback to his right knee during the camp's opening practice. He was carted from the field and sent back to Washington for an MRI, the results of which will be available this morning.

Last season Serwanga was an important contributor to the Redskins' special teams, especially in kickoff and punt coverage. This year he also was expected to compete for playing time in nickel and dime situations against Darrell Green and rookie Rashad Bauman.

Two other players were out of practice defensive tackle Santana Dotson and kicker Brett Conway. Dotson was on hand but sidelined by a strained calf that has nagged him since he signed in early June, while Conway was ill.

Ready to return

Washington's return teams stood out last season after dismal performances in 2000, thanks largely to the efforts of two veterans kick returner Michael Bates and punt returner Eric Metcalf.

Now those graybeards are gone and the club is banking on younger players. On kickoffs the leading candidate is wide receiver Justin Skaggs, an aggressive but untested former indoor-football player, while on punts there is an intriguing competition between wide receiver Jacquez Green and cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Fred Smoot.

Green, 5-foot-10 with breakaway speed, stood out briefly on punt returns with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 1998, his rookie season, he averaged 15.1 yards second in the NFL that year to Dallas' Deion Sanders, and more than any Redskin since 1957. However, he averaged only 8.9 yards in 1999 before losing the post.

Bailey and Smoot are the wild cards. Two of the NFL's better corners, they possess the type of athleticism that could make them star returners and each performed the task at least occasionally in college. Bailey has pleaded to return punts or join the offense for several seasons, while Smoot, with his typical bravado, is eager for the task.

"I've been practicing ever since last year," Smoot said. "Catching isn't the problem I just need to get back in the routine of running straight ahead."

Asked if that would take much work, he replied: "That's natural, baby. I'm a born athlete."

Several other players are lining up with the punt returners, including 42-year-old Darrell Green.

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