- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2003

The Washington Redskins’ personnel vision, after several years of uncertainty, now clearly belongs to owner Dan Snyder.

Newly promoted vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato acknowledged yesterday that his plan is to follow Snyder’s plan, adding that by keeping the club’s best interests in mind, all members of the Redskins’ personnel staff can function in harmony.

“The number one thing is to construct a team how the owner wants to construct it,” Cerrato said. “We all work for the owner. We all follow his lead. The bottom line is to win football games. Whatever it takes to win, that’s what we’ll do. We want to win as a group. We want to be on the same page. That’s the goal. That’s how most successful operations work.”

That Snyder is leading the Redskins in personnel matters comes as no surprise. He has influenced personnel increasingly since firing Marty Schottenheimer in January 2002, and this offseason he assumed much of the contract negotiation and salary cap duties from Joe Mendes, who vacated the vice president of football operations per mutual agreement on Tuesday.

Mendes had returned to the team in January 2002 as the de facto general manager, but his power gradually eroded. The new tandem of Snyder and Cerrato returns the club to its setup in 2000, though this time around Snyder is more capable and the early returns — investing in young talents like Laveranues Coles, Randy Thomas and Chad Morton — are more promising.

Although Cerrato was promoted from personnel director to his new post, his duties won’t change much. He will continue to stay out of contract matters and oversee scouting, as he did since Snyder shifted the power from Mendes to Cerrato this winter.

“I’m sure [my duties will] change some, but I’m not sure how exactly,” Cerrato said. “[The promotion] feels good, but it doesn’t feel that much different. We’re still trying to find the best players. It’s a change in title, but titles aren’t as important as winning.”

Cerrato confirmed that pro scouting director Scott Campbell will remain, saying Campbell has lived up to the reputation he built before joining the Redskins in 2001 under Schottenheimer.

“I’ve always respected Scott because of his work ethic. Nothing has changed,” Cerrato said. “Scott works hard. He has a good eye for talent. He wants to win. And he’s a team player.”

Team sources said the future of college director Ron Nay still hasn’t been determined, though a number of people familiar with the situation expect him to be fired. Cerrato said the club must hire one pro scout and several college scouts, adding the interview process should begin next week.

Meanwhile, a DUI charge against defensive end Bruce Smith was dismissed at a hearing in Virginia Beach, Va.

A judge did not find enough evidence to convict Smith, who failed one of two field sobriety tests and had slightly slurred speech after being pulled over for speeding on April 27.

Attorney Lawrence Cardon said Smith passed the blood-alcohol test — registering a .07, just below Virginia’s intoxication level of .08 — which was not considered a positive or a negative in the hearing.

“There was no presumption of intoxication, and no presumption of not being intoxicated,” Cardon said. “It was right in between.”

Smith’s passed field sobriety test, lack of erratic driving (other than speeding) and cooperation with police all weighed in his favor.

“The judge weighed everything, and in the end, the evidence wasn’t there,” Cardon said.

Smith was convicted of speeding, though the charge was lowered from 16 mph over the limit (61 mph in a 45 mph zone) to 12, after Smith presented evidence that his speedometer was improperly calibrated. He was fined $36.

This is the second time Smith has been acquitted of DUI. In 1997, Smith presented evidence that sleep apnea caused him to be asleep at the wheel while stopped in a lane of traffic, and that multiple knee surgeries caused him to fail a field sobriety test.

One other Redskin has a DUI charge pending. Recently signed defensive tackle Jermaine Haley was arrested for DUI with property damage over Memorial Day weekend in Miami Beach, Fla. A trial still has not been set in that case.

If convicted, Haley could face a suspension from the NFL because he also was convicted of DUI in 2001.

Legal penalties would include not less than 10 days in jail and a license suspension of not less than five years, according to a document obtained yesterday. Florida’s maximum jail term for a second DUI conviction within a five-year period is nine months.

And the Redskins probably would seek to recoup at least part of Haley’s $650,000 signing bonus, NFL sources said. Haley’s four-year, $4million deal is similar to the vast majority of NFL player contracts in that it includes language protecting the club from off-field transgressions.

Notes — The final stretch of offseason practices are set to begin today. The Redskins will practice today, tomorrow and Monday through Wednesday, then break until training camp in late July. The workouts are voluntary. …

Wide receiver Justin Skaggs suffered a potentially serious knee injury in NFL Europe over the weekend. He had been enjoying a solid season, ranking among the league leaders in receptions (37) and touchdowns (five). He is in Birmingham, Ala., being evaluated. As of last night he did not know how long he would be out.

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