- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

For most members of the Washington Redskins, May coaching sessions consist of little more than a couple hours of morning practice. Come lunchtime, they bolt out of Redskin Park and go their separate ways for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

For members of Washington’s offensive line, the stroke of noon means the day is just beginning. The football seminar may be over, but chemistry class is in session. And it doesn’t end until long after the sun has set.

“We go eat together, go to movies together, that type of thing. I can’t tell you everything, but we do enough to get to know each other,” guard Randy Thomas said of the linemen’s typical daily offseason routine. “That’s the way you build relationships with anyone. You spend time with them.”

Thomas, Jon Jansen, Chris Samuels, Dave Fiore and Larry Moore are spending plenty of time with each other these days, a calculated move on their parts to build the necessary chemistry that NFL offensive linemen so often talk about.

The Redskins, in no uncertain terms, displayed a commitment to overhaul their offensive line this spring. They lured Thomas away from the Jets by offering the 27-year-old right guard a seven-year, $28million contract with a $7million signing bonus. And they shored up the left side of the line by signing Fiore away from the 49ers for four years at $6.4million.

By plugging those two in between returning tackles Samuels and Jansen and center Moore, the Redskins feel like they could have themselves one of the top offensive lines in the league. They also know that it’s going to take some time for the quintet to develop chemistry and establish itself as one of the NFL’s best.

Which is why the past two weeks’ coaching sessions have become so important.

“I’ve never had this much time to get to know a group,” Fiore said. “In the past, it’s really just been, ‘Get to training camp and get to know each other then.’ But now, everyone’s here, we’re all working, no one’s taking any time off. We’re getting to know each other now so we’ll really have something to build on [once training camp and the season starts].”

They practice together. They lift weights together. They eat together. They hang out together. All in an effort to build the kind of camaraderie that simply can’t develop overnight.

“It’s important to know each other because we’re the largest group that has to work together out on the field,” Fiore said. “You really need to know someone inside and out to know how they’re going to react. I think communication is the most important thing out there for us. If one guy’s not comfortable with another, it makes things harder on everyone.”

Why such an emphasis on chemistry between linemen? Because perhaps no other position on the football field demands as much synchronization and trust from every member of the unit.

On almost every play from scrimmage, an offensive lineman’s level of success may depend on the man standing next to him.

“Maybe nine out of 10 snaps,” Thomas said.

“We’ve got to work together,” Jansen said. “If one guy messes up, it makes everyone look bad.”

Linemen can make every effort during the offseason to build chemistry with their teammates, but until they get on the field and stare down an opposing defense, there’s no way to gauge progress. On some teams, an offensive line can look like a cohesive unit on Week1. For others, it may not all come together until much later in the season.

The Redskins don’t know how long their progression will take. They do know that the time they are spending now — on the field, at the lunch table or at the movies — represents a crucial first step toward achieving that ultimate goal.

“We’ve got a pretty good group of guys,” Jansen said. “We don’t really have anyone with bad attitudes. It takes a lot less [time] when you have a group like that. When everyone can work together, it happens faster.

“It’s coming together.”

Notes — The Redskins’ final preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens has been rescheduled for Saturday, Aug.23 at FedEx Field. …

Free agent defensive end Peppi Zellner officially signed his one-year, $555,000 contract with the Redskins yesterday and passed his physical. Zellner, who spent the last four years with the Cowboys, will be in uniform for this morning’s coaching session and is looking forward to reuniting with defensive line coach Robert Nunn (who coached him at Georgia Military College) and defensive coordinator George Edwards (who used to be with Dallas).

“I’ve known Coach Nunn for a while, and I know Coach Edwards,” Zellner said. “It’s always good to go somewhere and start over. And now I get to beat up on the Cowboys. That’s also a good thing.” …

To make room on their roster for Zellner, Washington released cornerback Serge Sejour, an undrafted free agent from Howard. …

Defensive end Regan Upshaw will undergo his arthroscopic knee surgery today. The procedure is expected keep him out of action 2-to-3 weeks.

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