- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2004

After three minicamps, 14 days of “organized team activities” and an offseason workout program that at times felt decidedly in-season, Joe Gibbs finally had seen enough.

Pleased with the progress the Washington Redskins made during this offseason of change, Gibbs yesterday rewarded his veteran players by sending them home for summer vacation one day earlier than originally planned.

“They worked real hard,” Gibbs said, “so I gave them a little carrot.”

Rookies and coaches will remain at Redskin Park for another week of meetings, but there won’t be any more formal workouts until everyone reconvenes for training camp the final week of July.

“Our guys worked real hard and had a good attitude,” Gibbs said. “But I kind of sensed we were winding down the last couple days. They were kind of tired of doing OTAs. You could tell they’d had about enough of this.”

Gibbs and his staff have spent most of the last 12 weeks installing their offensive and defensive schemes and evaluating talent, a significantly more intense offseason program than previously seen at Redskin Park.

Of course, previous offseasons had not seen such a dramatic shakeup of both coaching and personnel. In addition to Gibbs and his entirely new staff, Washington added 17 veteran players through free agency or trades.

Gibbs needed those full 12 weeks to get everyone up to speed, but even those players who were around for previous coaching changes said this offseason has been different.

“We’ve never been as far along as we are now,” cornerback Fred Smoot said. “We’ve put in all of our packages, so when we come back we’ll just be smoothing everything out to get ready for the season. … It’ll be like we had the same coach last season.”

Gibbs repeatedly has warned against drawing too many conclusions from spring practice sessions since players are not allowed to wear pads and thus never truly reach full speed. Still, the 63-year-old coach emerged from the offseason impressed with what he saw.

“They had a great attitude,” he said. “It would drive you crazy if you had a bunch of guys who didn’t want to participate, didn’t want to work. We really didn’t have that, so it made for good work time. I think we got a lot out of it. Now we’ll just have to see how good we’re going to be. We all know we haven’t been in pads yet. … But believe me, you get quite a bit of work with just a helmet.”

For all the importance Gibbs and his fellow coaches placed on the offseason program, ultimately the onus was on the players to buy into the plan. Any doubts whether they would were immediately quashed from the first day players arrived in March.

“They really bought into it. That’s what surprised me, how quick they did,” said Smoot, who’s playing under his third coach in four years. “It’s a whole different atmosphere, a winning atmosphere. There’s no question about if we’re going to win. We expect to win now.”

Note — The Redskins signed Demetric Evans and Darrell Wright, a pair of defensive linemen who completed seasons in NFL Europe. Both previously spent time with the Dallas Cowboys.

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