- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

No one knows when Washington Redskins rookie safety Sean Taylor will return to Redskin Park after he bids farewell this afternoon.

As the Redskins completed their second-to-last day of rookie training yesterday, coach Joe Gibbs conceded the sessions were held partly because of the uncertainty of rookie contracts.

“If a guy isn’t signed, it’s going to be a long time before we get a chance to look at him again,” Gibbs said at a press conference to wrap up the offseason.

Taylor, the draft’s fifth pick overall, is the only real danger to be absent when the team reconvenes in late July. Offensive lineman Jim Molinaro, a sixth-round pick, is signed, and talks for tight end Chris Cooley (third round) and offensive lineman Mark Wilson (fifth round) aren’t expected to be difficult.

Although negotiations for high first-round picks generally don’t begin until mid-July, it’s tough to get those players in on time. Taylor doesn’t have an agent after firing Drew Rosenhaus in the wake of the draft, and yesterday he declined comment as he exited Redskin Park.

Gibbs is optimistic, though, pointing to owner Dan Snyder’s track record of paying generously for top players.

“I’d say in general, I don’t worry about [holdouts], because Dan’s heavily involved in that,” Gibbs said. “We’re known for paying fair dollar and getting it going. I think we’ll have fewer problems than most other people.”

Even under Snyder’s ownership, the Redskins have had several rookie holdouts, the longest being quarterback Patrick Ramsey’s 16-day absence in 2002. Ramsey ended up starting intermittently as a rookie but was unable to sustain his performance following an outstanding debut in early October.

Gibbs knows how a holdout can affect a team and a player, having dealt with Desmond Howard’s squabble in 1992. These days the coach is wary.

“I learned a lot,” Gibbs said. “We didn’t take very many high draft choices in there toward the end of my tenure here the first time. We took one, and he came in late. He was pretty much out of shape. We gave him a ton of money. The team looks at him and says, ‘This guy’s not going to produce for us this year.’ It’s a mess. It’s a nightmare.”

Taylor’s physical shape is one thing that has Gibbs upbeat. The rookie recently took the coaching staff’s treadmill test and, according to Gibbs, performed well despite having just completed a workout.

“He’s got a ways to go,” Gibbs said, “but he did fairly well, and [the test is] pretty tough.”

Notes — The Redskins’ only health concern heading into training camp likely will be cornerback Walt Harris, who tore a knee tendon shortly before signing in March. Harris will compete for the No.3 cornerback job. … Much of the team will participate in a three-day preamble to camp beginning July26. The full squad is scheduled to report July 30, with camp officially opening July 31. …

The Redskins formally submitted a bid for FedEx Field to be the site of the 2005 ACC championship game, the first for the newly expanded conference. The ACC last month asked nine cities, including Washington, to craft proposals. Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., are considered the front-runners. A decision is expected late this summer or in early fall.

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