- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Although Joe Gibbs’ first minicamp since returning to the Washington Redskins won’t feature a host of key veteran players, it will provide the coach an opportunity to evaluate both of his top quarterbacks.

Gibbs said yesterday that Patrick Ramsey has been cleared to participate in limited, individual drills at this weekend’s camp. Ramsey, who underwent foot surgery in December and since has been told he must compete with veteran Mark Brunell for the starting job, was not originally expected to resume football activities this soon.

“I think Patrick’s coming along much better than we thought,” Gibbs said. “He’s made great progress.”

Ramsey will be restricted to simple, individual drills and will not take snaps with the full offense as the club’s training staff tries to prevent him from aggravating his injured right foot. However, Brunell will participate fully and would seem to have an early advantage in Gibbs’ open competition.

Then again, considering the large number of his new teammates who won’t be practicing this weekend, Brunell may not have much opportunity to show Gibbs what he can do.

In addition to Ramsey, at least 10 key veterans will miss camp or be restricted to simple conditioning work. Wide receiver Laveranues Coles (toe), tackle Chris Samuels (shoulder), running back Trung Canidate (foot), center Larry Moore (foot) and nose tackle Brandon Noble (knee) are rehabilitating injuries and will not practice. Guard Derrick Dockery, wide receiver Darnerien McCants and defensive tackle Jermaine Haley are nursing shoulder injuries and may participate sparingly. Defensive end Renaldo Wynn and new punter Tom Tupa, meanwhile, will be attending the NFL Players’ Association annual meeting in Hawaii.

With a depleted roster, Gibbs’ first practice as Redskins coach in 12 years might not look like much.

“We may have to go at a slower pace,” he said. “We’re probably going to be real short at some positions, the skill positions in particular. So we’ll probably have to go easy.”

One player who is expected to be in uniform is linebacker LaVar Arrington. Arrington has filed a grievance with the league, claiming the Redskins shortchanged him $6.5million on the contract extension he signed in December, but he said he will not let it interfere with his football preparation.

“I expect LaVar [at minicamp],” Gibbs said. “I don’t think there’s anything there about him not participating. … It doesn’t affect football, so he’s going full speed ahead.”

Camp officially begins with practice Friday afternoon at Redskin Park, but perhaps the most important session will be tomorrow night when Gibbs conducts his first full team meeting.

Since his hiring in January, Gibbs has managed to speak with only about 20 percent of his players. Tomorrow night’s meeting will provide the coach with his first real opportunity to get his message across to his players, many of whom were teenagers the last time Gibbs coached in the NFL.

Much has changed since 1992, but Gibbs believes some things remain the same, most notably the importance of veteran locker room leadership. He plans to speak directly about that point tomorrow night and hopes several team leaders emerge in due time.

“Everybody said to me you can’t establish a core group of players [in today’s NFL]. I don’t think that’s true,” Gibbs said. “I’ve done my homework on it, and I think you can. I’m going to tell them what I’m going to look for if somebody wants to be a core group Redskin and be a part of our group for a long time.”

Gibbs referred to the days when longtime Redskins like Art Monk and Joe Jacoby set the example for their teammates by attending all voluntary meetings and workouts and teaching younger players how to act as professionals.

“We’re going to try to go back and recreate all that, to find the guys that are Redskins,” he said.

As for this weekend’s practices, Gibbs plans to keep things simple and focus on the basics as the club begins its formal offseason program.

“We want to start teaching — on offense, defense and special teams,” he said. “When we start practice, it’s going to be special teams, because that’s a real core group of what we do. … This will be a real teaching thing.”

Notes — Linebacker Greg Favors, whom the Redskins had expressed some interest in acquiring, signed a three-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday. Favors visited Redskin Park this month, but the club never came close to signing him. …

Gibbs is contemplating how much of training camp he wants to make open to the public this summer. Camp will open at Redskin Park in late July, and although fans were allowed to attend every practice last year, Gibbs said he may close some sessions to the public.

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