- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 27, 2002

So the first week of Camp Spurrier is nearly at an end, and the operative word is fun. Everyone is having fun, especially the players, who remember the torture they endured at Camp Marty last summer.

"It's more laid-back," linebacker Kevin Mitchell told the Associated Press. "Instead of somebody telling you what to do, it's more, 'I'll leave it up to you.'"

Then there is Bruce Smith, who could only watch the fun from the sideline as he recovers from offseason surgery.

"[Schottenheimer] took a lot of fun out of the football," Smith said. "It's sad that took place."

Fun, fun, fun until the Redskins have to play a game.

What short memories we all have. Everyone is singing the praises of the fun atmosphere that Spurrier has brought to the Redskins, yet at this time last year, everyone was salivating at the notion that Schottenheimer was going to run guys into the ground.

Last year the operative word wasn't fun. It was discipline, and there was a good reason for that. This was a team that was so undisciplined and quit so badly in the 2000 season that it was disgusting.

What makes any of us think that this team will be any different than the Club Norv squads? Because of Spurrier's success as a college football coach? Turner had tremendous success as an offensive coordinator, too, and tell me, which is a bigger step up to an NFL coach the head coach at the University of Florida or the offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys?

We may not have liked Schottenheimer's style, but he understood something about discipline and motivation. He inherited a team in disarray, and had to get it under control tear it down before he could build it back up. Anyone who has ever been in charge of anything knows that it is easier to take the foot off the gas to back off than to start off laid-back and then have to put the hammer down when it becomes evident that sometimes men don't act like the men you think they should be.

Remember the revolt last year, when the team had its locker room meeting and went to Schottenheimer asking him to back off? He did, and it went on an 8-4 run after that. It was the most unity a Redskins team had showed since the Gibbs era, and even if it was created because of dislike for Schottenheimer, it was the first big step of building up the character of a team. Schottenheimer never got the chance to finish the construction, though, and got fired by Dan Snyder after the season.

Now we have Spurrier's version of summer camp, which is sort of like "Green Acres Comes to Carlisle," given the ball coach's folksy style. Couldn't you see Spurrier sitting in Sam Drucker's General Store, talking football with Uncle Joe and Fred Ziffel? This whole, "We're just gonna toss it around and see what happens," schtick is a hoot, as in Hooterville, or maybe closer to Gainesville.

It hasn't played well in Carlisle, at least to the locals. The first day Spurrier arrived, he did his Groucho Marx/Captain Spaulding impression ("Hello, I must be going") when he said he didn't know if the team would return next year.

"I don't understand the importance of getting away, to tell you to truth," he said. "Everybody has their own idea. I don't know how we'll do it next year."

Given the changes in rosters from year to year these days, it would seem that the time away from home would be important to bring about team unity, given the distractions that can take place at home. But this appears to be a trend in the NFL, as more teams are considering practicing at home and not going away for training camp.

Maybe the Redskins will have camp in Aruba next year. I've heard it's really fun there.

There is perhaps no better illustration of the different perception of last year's camp to this year's than the Oklahoma drill, the dreaded form of torture that Schottenheimer used briefly in camp last year when a blocker and a defender go head-to-head as the defender tries to tackle a running back. You would have thought Schottenheimer was using cruel and unusual punishment when he used the drill last year. I thought Smith was going to file a complaint with Amnesty International.

So what does Spurrier do on the second day of camp? Make his players do the Oklahoma drill, and not a peep from the players. Given the atmosphere of this camp, I would have expected the Florida drill, which I believe is 18 holes of golf.

If you put any value on players having fun and being happy, then by all means Green Acres has been a success so far. But once they start playing for real, the Redskins may resemble Oliver Douglas' Hooterville farm.


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