- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Quarterback Shane Matthews returned to the system that made him a star yesterday, reuniting with former Florida coach Steve Spurrier as the Washington Redskins opened two weeks of offseason practices.
It's taking some time to get reacquainted even to the snap count but Matthews was enthused to be back with Spurrier, whom he considers to be the antithesis of the conservative, controlling, uptight coaches who rule the NFL these days.
"The atmosphere is totally different than what I've been in in my nine years [in the NFL]," said Matthews, who signed with Washington two weeks ago after being cut by the Chicago Bears. "It's just got that laid-back approach, which I really like. That's my personality: laid-back, just go with the flow. I'm looking forward to it."
Matthews took snaps behind Sage Rosenfels and Danny Wuerffel and limited his throws to dump-offs. He said "95 percent" of the offense was the same since he set 50 Florida and 19 Southeastern Conference records in the early 1990s, but he expects to need several months to overcome the years away from it.
"Nobody's going to set the world on fire the first day, especially when you haven't played in a system for 10 years and you don't know half the players on the team," Matthews said. "You just want to not fumble the ball on the snap from center, get the ball in the right guy's hands and go from there."
The snap, in fact, was a hurdle. Matthews had the same snap count for years as a Bear (1993-96, then 1999-2001) and a Carolina Panther (1997-98), and he reverted to it on occasion yesterday. Overall, he said, there are no similarities between Spurrier's Fun 'N' Gun and the conservative attacks to which he had adjusted, overseen most recently by John Shoop.
"This offense is, hey, take your shots down the field," Matthews said. "Look deep, if it's not open, come underneath. It's totally opposite to what I've been playing in the last eight or nine years."
Matthews is expected to win the starting job over Rosenfels, a second-year player with no NFL snaps, and Wuerffel, a former Gator who has little NFL experience, particularly in recent seasons. Matthews held Chicago's starting job intermittently the past three years, and played well at times, but succumbed to a series of injuries.
Spurrier speculated Matthews might be toughening up by lifting weights more frequently, but that isn't the case. The 6-foot-3 Matthews has put on some weight, but it's not because of an new workout regimen.
"I'm just getting older and getting fatter," he said with a laugh. "I'm as big as I've ever been right now at 204 pounds. I've done the same thing I've done my entire pro career."
Bigger or not, Matthews will have to win the job in what Spurrier called an "all-out" competition. The coach reiterated that he will start the quarterback who plays the best during the exhibition season. To do that in this offense, Matthews must regain the ability to make the crucial adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Spurrier expects that to happen "pretty quick."
"I think he's got a good mind," Spurrier said. "The offense is not too complicated, and I think his memory's pretty good."
Whatever edge Matthews and Wuerffel hold because of their experience under Spurrier, Rosenfels seems to be learning the system quickly. Yesterday the young passer audibled to a quick out when he saw the rush coming in 11-on-11 drills. He said he was feeling a "little bit" more comfortable.
"The key is when I do make a check, I have to make it the right one," Rosenfels said. "In the past I'd check to what I thought was the right play but then the defense would change. Obviously that's the norm in the NFL. So now I'm trying to make it the right check."
Notes
Wuerffel switched from No.7 back to No.17 following the furor over whether Matthews would wear No.9, which had been held out of Redskins circulation in honor of Sonny Jurgensen. Until last month's minicamp, no one had worn No.7 since Joe Theismann. Matthews is wearing No.6, which he said "looks good when I look down at it."
"When all the flak came up about the other number Shane was going to wear, I just felt it was best to eliminate [No. 7], too," Spurrier said. "We don't want to differentiate who's number deserves not to be worn and who's doesn't, so we just won't wear any of those that the former equipment man here said we weren't supposed to."
Jay Brunetti is the former equipment manager who held out certain numbers. He is now with the Houston Texans.
Spurrier, asked who made the decision about Wuerffel's No.7, replied, "That was my decision. Every now and then I make one."
The series of eight practices that began are voluntary. Rookies cannot participate until Wednesday or when their respective college class graduates, whichever is later. Nine veterans were absent: defensive ends Marco Coleman and Bruce Smith, defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, cornerback Champ Bailey, kicker Brett Conway, long snapper Ethan Albright, punter Dan Frantz and linebacker Donte Curry.
Defensive tackle Del Cowsette, who sat out last month's minicamp following thumb surgery, participated in individual drills. Defensive lineman Renaldo Wynn lined up at left end during team drills. He played tackle during minicamp when Coleman was on hand, but Coleman is expected to be cut after June 1 and Wynn is expected to take over his starting spot.
NFL sources confirmed that the Redskins have expressed interest in former Philadelphia Eagles safety Damon Moore, who was not re-signed after tearing an ACL late last season. A signing does not appear imminent, though.


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