- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006

For every player and fan involved with the NFL, Sunday is the day. The players practice and work to play in the games, the fans spend hundreds of dollars on “NFL Sunday Ticket” or thousands of dollars on tickets and parking passes to watch.

But for Al Saunders, his favorite day is Monday … and Tuesday … and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

As the Washington Redskins’ associate head coach, Saunders is in charge of the offensive play calling. When the Redskins won a thriller over Jacksonville on Oct. 1, he reveled for less than a day. When the Redskins lost to the Giants on Sunday, he fretted for less than a day.

“This will sound amazing, but the enjoyment for me is beginning the preparation on Monday — that’s what keeps coaches hooked,” Saunders said last week in the Redskins’ weight room. “On Monday, everything you did last week, win or lose, has no bearing anymore. You get a whole new opportunity to come up with a strategy and tactically approach a different team with different personnel and a different system.”

Here’s a look at how Saunders spends his work week:

• Monday: Saunders watches the previous day’s Redskins game before starting on the new opponent. This week, he will watch every defensive snap of every Tennessee game, starting with the Indianapolis loss and moving backward to Week 1. He might also watch a few selected games from last season.

“When I’m watching their defense, I’m looking and evaluating their system and personnel and start to prepare a plan of what I think we can do against them,” Saunders said.

• Tuesday: Game-planning day in the NFL. When Saunders leaves the office, the Tennessee game plan will be in place and all of the passing, running and gadget plays will be contained to one side of a piece of paper, although in very small type. The information is split into two columns. The passing plays take up about 11/4 columns.

Saunders doesn’t script plays and he won’t commit to his first play-call for several days.

“Not at all,” he said. “I usually don’t determine what we’re going to open with and what we’ll do play calling-wise until Saturday night.”

• Wednesday: The first day of work for the players with the new game plan. A late morning walk-through precedes a two-hour practice. The Redskins work on the “regular” plays in the plan.

After practice, Saunders reviews the practice video and works on a third down plan.

• Thursday: The Redskins fine tune their third down calls and at night Saunders and the offensive staff plan Friday’s practice around red zone, short yardage and goal-line packages.

• Friday: Following a 90-minute practice, Saunders focuses on the beginning of the game.

“I’ll look at the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday practice films and the cut-ups of the opponent’s defense and I’ll come up with a list of 30 players that I think we’ll run in the first part of the game,” he said.

• Saturday: The Redskins have a walk-through at their facility before going to the team hotel or the team plane.

“When the players leave, I’ll go back and look at the cut-ups and practice film and maybe pare down the list of 30 plays,” Saunders said. “On Sunday, after the first two, three plays, I may go in a different direction.”

Come Monday, Saunders starts the process all over again.

“The fun part for me is teaching the players, but it’s really exciting each Monday because it’s like opening a new package and you get to start figuring out how you’re going to solve the problems,” he said. “It’s like people who get on the plane with the Sudoku books. They solve one puzzle, turn to another page and get excited to solve the next problem.”

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