- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

Regan Upshaw knows that everyone wants to ask him about Bruce Smith, about how Upshaw likely will be taking playing time away from one of the greatest defensive linemen in NFL history. He knows that most observers of the Washington Redskins are wondering whether any hard feelings might develop between the two.Upshaw, though, insists that has not — and will not — be the case.”To me, Bruce Smith is like the Godfather of defensive linemen: When he talks, you listen,” said Upshaw, the eighth-year end who signed with Washington as a free agent. “I loved watching Bruce Smith, so for me to able to play with him and learn from him, I feel like it’s a blessing.”From the moment the Redskins signed Upshaw to a five-year, $7.5 million contract in March, questions arose about Smith’s role in his 19th NFL season.Upshaw, who has made 70 starts in his seven-year career with Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Oakland, will start at right end, defensive coordinator George Edwards said in March. That apparently left Smith, who is three sacks shy of Reggie White’s all-time record of 198, to serve strictly as a third-down pass rusher and Upshaw’s backup.Those sentiments since have been tempered slightly, with coach Steve Spurrier saying that whichever performs better will get more playing time. During last weekend’s minicamp, Upshaw was consistently playing alongside the first-teamers, though he also spent some time at left end while Renaldo Wynn was hampered by a strained groin.How the rotation ultimately is utilized remains to be seen. But as far as Upshaw is concerned, it doesn’t matter who is deemed a starter or a backup so long as everyone gets a chance to make his mark.”You know what — they brought me in to start,” he said. “But being in this game so long, if you throw me in there, I’ll play. I’m going to give 100 percent, whether it’s at right end, left end, [defensive tackle] or nose tackle. If I get 30 plays, I’m going to work hard and make plays. And if I get 50 plays, I’m going to work hard and make plays.”Upshaw wasn’t making any plays the last two days. He was held out of the morning practice sessions both days with a swollen right knee that is still recovering from reconstructive surgery last June.Upshaw missed most of the 2002 season while rehabbing his knee. He did return to play in the Raiders’ final five regular-season games and the club’s playoff run to the Super Bowl. Though he had no trouble once he got back on the field last year, Upshaw admits that, in an effort to impress his new teammates and coaches, he might have pushed himself a tad too much during the weekend minicamp.”I had to give them all that I had — that’s how I normally work,” he said. “You have to give someone your first impression and let guys around you know you like to work. So I’m paying a price for it now.”Upshaw hopes to be back on the field in the next day or two, though it appears he’s already made a good impression on the coaching staff. The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder was praised considerably for his enthusiasm and his intensity during minicamp.”He has shown that he cannot go half speed,” said defensive line coach Robert Nunn. “We try to go half-speed drills, and it just is not in him. He’s got to go full speed. That guy’s got a motor, a tremendous motor.”Upshaw also is quickly earning a reputation as one of the most excitable players on the Redskins’ defense, something the club was looking for after tackle Daryl Gardener left this winter for Denver.”He brings a lot of energy to the group, a lot of energy to the classroom,” Nunn said. “We’re looking forward to that. One guy can make a lot of difference.”Notes — Free agent defensive end Peppi Zellner is scheduled to visit Cincinnati today, after which he is expected to make his choice between the Bengals and Redskins. …The Redskins brought in quarterback Kevin Daft and fullback Thad Buttone to work out with the team. Buttone spent the last two training camps with the Redskins but has never played in an NFL game. Daft, a fifth-round pick in the 1999 draft, has spent time with Tennessee, San Diego and San Francisco and in NFL Europe. Spurrier, though, said he will most likely go into training camp with the four quarterbacks already on his roster: starter Patrick Ramsey, veteran Rob Johnson and rookies Gibran Hamdan and Brad Banks. …Two of Washington’s five players allocated to NFL Europe had big weekends. Receiver Justin Skaggs had seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown for the Amsterdam Admirals. Defensive end Mike Cecere, also playing for Amsterdam, had two sacks.

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