- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey broke into a broad grin when he took his first steps onto FedEx Field yesterday. The Washington Redskins' first-round pick tilted his head to grasp the 86,000-seat stadium's enormity and uttered, "It's awesome."

Coach Steve Spurrier moved the minicamp's afternoon session to the Landover stadium to help familiarize the coaching staff and nearly 50 players who haven't played at FedEx Field. The Redskins travel to Carlisle, Pa., Osaka, Japan, and Charlotte, N.C., during the coming nine weeks before returning to FedEx Field against Pittsburgh on Aug. 18 for the third preseason game.

"I don't have time to pinch myself," Ramsey said. "I'm trying not to be awed and just get out there and play."

Spurrier has visited FedEx twice, though both were short tours. One was a few minutes before 9,000 fans during the April 20 draft.

The Redskins are 23-16-1 since moving from RFK Stadium in 1997, including three 4-4 seasons. The name of the stadium has changed three times, but Spurrier undoubtedly wants to turn it into his version of the "Swamp" at Florida, where the Gators proved nearly unbeatable the past 12 years.

"We're going to try to make FedEx Field the loudest stadium in the league, and to do that we have to put on a show," Spurrier said. "Our fans will be the loudest in the NFL, but we have to do our part. Nobody's afraid of us yet. We have to do it on the field before anybody worries about the Redskins offense."

Former Philadelphia linebacker Jeremiah Trotter teased LaVar Arrington about the large sections of dirt on the field. Trotter played five years on the artificial turf at Veterans Stadium, largely considered the NFL's worst field. FedEx's field will be resodded next week, with the current turf headed for local high schools.

For many players, it was the first time they had seen the stadium completely empty, and they noted the absence of fans was disturbing.

"I was looking for that game-day smell," linebacker Arrington said.

"Where is everybody?" linebacker Eddie Mason said. "It definitely feels weird. For some of the rookies, it's like 'Wow.' It's a great thing, but sometimes you want to wait. I didn't see the stadium as a rookie until my first preseason game. It was like boom."

It was the same practice routinely performed at Redskin Park. Offensive tackle Jon Jansen led players in sprints. A few minutes were spent on individual drills, followed by plenty of passing work. The one-hour workout ended with short-yardage scoring plays. Receiver Kevin Lockett bounced off the wall padding after one catch.

Many players were simply happy for a change of venue after three minicamps and several weeks of coaching sessions at Redskin Park.

"It broke up the monotony," Arrington said. "It took me back to college, where you practice on the game field. It's good for younger guys and guys that haven't played on this field. Seeing the stands and what the potential of this stadium can be when it's filled with crazy lunatic Redskins fans creates a sense of urgency."

Urgency dominated the end of practice when players sprinted to the locker room to get on the buses for the trip back to the Ashburn facility. They tried to beat rush-hour traffic, but a police escort could only help so much. It wasn't long before the players were surrounded by fans heading home from work. Baptized by Beltway backups, Spurrier and the new players truly became Washingtonians.


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