- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 27, 2002

Hometown hero?

CARLISLE, Pa. Akihito Amaya is a full-time IBM marketing rep and part-time international football player. Maybe he should try politics, too.

The Japanese receiver joined the Washington Redskins yesterday as the local player for the American Bowl on Aug.3 in Osaka, Japan. Amaya's English was sometimes limited, but his humor was nonstop. Asked the Japanese's favorite NFL team, he paused only a moment before replying, "The Redskins."

Another international incident avoided.

Amaya has spent the past two years with NFL Europe's Rhein Fire, leading the league in 2001 with 14 catches. Amaya, 29, doesn't expect to ever play in the NFL, but the 6-foot, 192-pounder made some nice catches during drills.

"He's a fun guy, always a smile on his face," said quarterback Danny Wuerffel, who played with Amaya for Rhein. "He's improved a lot since then running his routes."

Coach Steve Spurrier expects to give Japanese fans a chance to cheer for their own, but he tipped his strategy.

"We'll stick him out there a few plays in the game, maybe give him a reverse or something," Spurrier said. "Oh, I shouldn't say that on TV. Maybe a fake reverse. We usually let him get in motion and run around and let all his buddies see him run around."

The Redskins hope Amaya knows some good restaurants during the three-day trip. He'll recommend Takoyaki, an octopus dish.

"That's nasty. I can't wait to do it, though," said cornerback Chandler Smith, who often dined with Amaya as Rhein teammates. "I got to do it. I may never get to Osaka or anywhere else in Japan, so I want to get the full experience of everything."

Slimmin' Samuels

Most players have dragged themselves off the field following the last two afternoon practices that ended with wind sprints. Not Chris Samuels. The athletic offensive tackle, already possessing the physique of a large tight end, re-toed the line and ran some more by himself.

Samuels weighs about 313 now and is looking to lose five pounds. He says he's not in football shape yet. Most offensive line coaches, of course, would love to have a Pro Bowl left tackle under 325, but then Samuels set a high standard last season by weighing in under 300.

Asked if he had adjusted his diet to accelerate the tummy trimming, Samuels grinned sheepishly.

"I want to eat what I want to eat," he admitted. "I'll burn it off out here."

Extra points

• Danny Wuerffel connected on long touchdown passes to receivers Rod Gardner and Justin Skaggs during the afternoon practice. Quarterback Sage Rosenfels gave a Trent Dilfer-like touchdown signal after throwing a deep score.

• Receiver Darnerien McCants has a little quickness but it wasn't nearly enough on one end-around. Linebackers Jeremiah Trotter and Kevin Mitchell, both on the field because it was a goal-line drill, raced to McCants and knocked him stiff for no gain.

• Trotter, Mitchell and linebacker Eddie Mason were among a group of seven or eight players conducting an extra prayer session after practice. Mason later said spirituality under coach Steve Spurrier has been stressed.

• Defensive tackle Donovan Arp took a few tries after practice as the long snapper, with veteran snapper Ethan Albright holding. Good thing Arp was just messing around. Several balls nearly flew over Albright's outstretched arms.

• Those wearing shorts and T-shirts during the morning session were downright cold, as temperatures struggled to get into the 70s. It was a stunning contrast to Tuesday morning, when camp's opening practice saw on-field temperatures reach 117 degrees.

At a glance

Today's practices: 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m.

Weather: 80 degrees, sunny.

Health watch: DE Bruce Smith (knees), DT Santana Dotson (calf) and LG David Loverne (sprained elbow) missed both practices.

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