- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

CARLISLE, Pa.— This must be what the Colosseum in Rome was like, back in the time of the Caesars. Whoops. Hollers. Blood-curdling screams. Violent collisions. Fallen combatants. Man at his most primal. Man as homo sapiens.

It's a half-hour into practice on the first Wednesday morning of training camp, and the Redskins are gathered on one of the football fields at Dickinson College, doing the Oklahoma drill. There's nothing subtle about the Oklahoma drill. A blocker slams into a defender. A defender tries to fight him off, then tackle the running back going by. All in a very confined space.

The hitting can be heard hundreds of feet away. Players at every position participate except, of course, for quarterbacks and kickers. Even 42-year-old cornerbacks take their turn. "I was the guy who got run over by I think it was a blue truck," Darrell Green says afterward. "I didn't get the license plate number."

A year ago, Marty Schottenheimer began his reign of terror as the Redskins' coach with the Oklahoma drill. In the months that followed, it came to symbolize all that was wrong with the Schottenheimer Way. Marty's methods were outdated, some players groused. To subject veterans like Bruce Smith and Darrell Green to a Pop Warner League drill like that showed he didn't respect them. And besides, corporal punishment went out with Dr.Spock.

Smith, in particular, took it as a personal affront. He acted like a Bill in a china shop during the drill, manhandling his blockers and getting into a scuffle with one of them. By the end of camp, Bruce was so anti-Schottenheimer that he wouldn't have returned this season if Marty had continued as coach.

So what does Steve Spurrier have the Redskins do on their second day in Carlisle? The Oklahoma drill. For 10 brutal minutes yesterday, teammates smacked into one another, and as was the case last summer everyone lived to tell about it. By The Washington Times' tabulations (which are only slightly more reliable than the Florida election returns), there were 24 reps; the offense won 21 of the battles, the defense three. But then, the offense is supposed to win. It has the defense outnumbered.

"The secret is to stay lower than the guy in front of you," says Eddie Mason, one of the defenders who actually managed to stop the ball carrier. "You try to move him into the hole and put the running back in a position where he can't make a cut. This was good for us. We hadn't really gotten into the camp mentality until today. As you saw, we had a great practice this morning. Now we're ready to go to work."

This was good for us? Can these possibly be the same Redskins who seemed at the point of rebellion last August? This Spurrier fellow must really know what he's doing. He can get his players to do one of the most punishing drills in football, and no one says boo about it.

Of course, the coach had the good sense to excuse Smith from the proceedings. Don't want to make the same mistake your predecessor did. Had Green wanted to beg off, that undoubtedly would have been OK, too. But Darrell, ever the team man, allowed himself to be knocked around by a blocker big enough to be his father.

Another small fry, Fred Smoot, even succeeded in making a tackle. "You can see I gained a couple of pounds in the offseason," he said with a grin, "and I just exploded through there. I tried to hurt somebody."

In the end, the drill couldn't have been any less of a big deal. Walter Rasby, who got the better of LaVar Arrington in their "bout," shrugged and said, "In every camp, there's always one day of intense hitting, and now we've got it out of the way. Heck, I've been doing these [drills] since Little League."

At the University of Michigan, Jon Jansen said, "We did it every day in spring ball. We didn't call it the Oklahoma drill, though. We called it the Michigan drill. Any word that starts with 'O' [as in Ohio State] doesn't fit in Michigan football."

So if the Oklahoma drill isn't the hardest drill in football, what is? Come on, help us out here, guys.

"The two-minute drill," Mason said.

And why would that be?

"Because there's no huddle, the offense is going a mile a minute, and you don't get a rest until you get them off the field. If they keep getting first downs, you feel like you're out there forever."

Jansen had another suggestion. "What's harder than the Oklahoma drill?" he said. "The Oklahoma drill on a day like [Tuesday], when it's 110 degrees. Actually, any drill on a day when it's 110 degrees."

Hard to argue with that.

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