- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2005

Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs worked his players for less than an hour yesterday in the final practice of minicamp, rewarding them for an offseason of hard work.

The only activity left before players report to training camp July31 is several days of rookie orientation this week. Gibbs said some veterans would attend orientation on a voluntary basis, but the bulk of the roster yesterday afternoon departed for a 41-day break.

“We’ve worked real hard up to this point, having great attendance and great work,” Gibbs said. “Now it’s up to each person individually [to do] a great job over the next six weeks.”

Several important developments occurred this offseason. Gibbs changed the offense to include more deep passes. Defensive coaches identified several up-and-comers to fill out Gregg Williams’ myriad packages. And the club’s special teams got much-needed reinforcements in the form of able-bodied linebackers, safeties, H-backs and running backs.

For a second straight year Redskins players were subjected to a conditioning test, though this time Gibbs conducted a series of 40-yard dashes rather than monitoring players’ stress levels in a treadmill test. The coach said everyone passed.

Gibbs never feels as if he’s had enough practice time, and this year he was hampered particularly by the loss of three workout days, the penalty for some too-intense practice drills. But he also is eager for the NFL’s one true vacation period to arrive.

“As quick as I can I’m getting out of here,” Gibbs said. “You’re not going to know where I am, and I don’t want anybody tracing me.”

Injury update

Linebacker LaVar Arrington and defensive tackle Brandon Noble remain somewhat questionable for the start of training camp even though they are progressing well from their respective setbacks.

Arrington began a running program this week and has yet to experience any swelling in his right knee, which has undergone two arthroscopic surgeries since September. But it’s still too soon to say whether Arrington will be ready for camp.

“We’ll have a feel for that when we get closer,” director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer said.

Noble, who suffered a staph infection following a recent arthroscopic procedure on his right knee, will end a six-week antibiotics regimen today. Of Noble’s status for camp, Tyer said, “We’ll see what he looks like.”

Meanwhile, safety Andre Lott hyperextended his knee in practice Saturday and was scheduled for an MRI yesterday afternoon. Club officials suspected Lott, who is among several reserve safeties in the mix for playing time, might have damaged his meniscus.

There was good news on the rest of the injury front. Linebacker Mike Barrow (knee) should get final clearance in coming weeks. H-back Chris Cooley (hamstring) didn’t participate in minicamp but is fine. Cornerback Carlos Rogers (ankle), running back Rock Cartwright (knee) and wide receiver Kevin Dyson (knee) sat out yesterday but aren’t seriously injured.

Kicker John Hall, who missed much of last season with various muscle pulls, is ready to go. Said Gibbs: “As far as I can tell, he’s back healthy and strong.”

A. Brown buzz

Generating perhaps the most talk among coaches and teammates this offseason was wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is in line for kick return duties and perhaps even some snaps on offense.

Brown, 27, signed in November and went on to lead Washington in punt return average (8.9 yards) and returned a kickoff 66 yards. The former sprinter at West Virginia and Miami Central High School possesses unbelievable speed but thinks he is much more than just a runner — an opinion Gibbs shares.

“Sometimes you see somebody who comes from a track background, and they’re pretty much straight-line,” Gibbs said. “They have a hard time mentally sometimes adjusting to football. This guy does not. You tell him to run a route, and he’s probably as good as anybody out there.

“He’s got to be one of the faster guys in the league. … But you can be fast, but if you’re not a good football guy, it’s not going to do you any good. I think he’s a football guy.”

Lately Brown has been trying to master the nuances of his acceleration — “channeling that speed and controlling that speed and knowing when to burst and when not to burst and coming in and out of the breaks,” he explained.

“Speed can be dangerous also,” Brown said. “It can blow up on you because you’re doing something too fast.”

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