- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

ORLANDO, Fla. — After restoring luster to the Washington Redskins last season with their first playoff victory in six years, Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs is relaxed and upbeat about what’s ahead.

“The more you get a rhythm going, you’re not quite as worried about everything,” Gibbs said today at the annual NFL spring meetings. “We had a miserable first year, and that’s real hard on you. So you go in the second year knowing you’ve got to make something happen. Being able to get 10 wins, that helps a lot. It gives the whole organization confidence.

“If we hadn’t gotten into the playoffs, it would’ve been a real downer. Getting in the playoffs was somewhat of a turning point for us.”

The Redskins have maintained that momentum since the signing period began on March 11, adding potential starting receivers Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd, talented safety Adam Archuleta and pass-rusher Andre Carter. The only losses from the 2005 regulars were inconsistent linebacker LaVar Arrington, safety Ryan Clark and blocking tight end Robert Royal.

But there will be no change at quarterback — at least in the starting lineup.

Mark Brunell will turn 36 in September, and he struggled badly after injuring a leg in late December. Gibbs, however, says he is confident his quarterback can still get the job done.

“Mark had his best year,” Gibbs said of Brunell, who rebounded from a dreadful 2004 season to throw 23 touchdown passes with just 10 interceptions in 2005. “He’s a mature guy that can play awfully good football. I’ll always love Mark.

“Mark’s in good shape for his age, [but] his legs are a concern. [We want to] add some things to the offseason program for him from a flexibility standpoint. He can [also] probably take a little less work in the season and give the other guys some reps.”

Those guys are second-year quarterback Jason Campbell, who was listed as inactive all year after being chosen in the first round of the 2005 draft, and veteran Todd Collins, who was signed because he spent the past five years in Kansas City under new Redskins associate head coach Al Saunders.

Gibbs said he plans to give Campbell most of the playing time in preseason and that the youngster could pass Collins to serve as the backup to Brunell.

Meanwhile, the NFL yesterday announced the Redskins’ first preseason game, an Aug. 13 matchup against the Bengals at Cincinnati that will be nationally televised by NBC.

The only other firm date is the final preseason game against Baltimore on Aug. 31. In between, the Redskins will play host to the New York Jets and travel to face the New England Patriots.

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