- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2007

At first glance, yesterday was a normal first day of offseason workouts for the Washington Redskins. The close-in parking spaces at Redskin Park were packed with SUVs. The weight room, little used in the seven weeks since the disappointing 2006 season ended, was busy.

But there were differences. The “voluntary” March to June conditioning program now truly lives up to its name. Coach Joe Gibbs met with a handful of veterans in December and agreed that players would be allowed to work out in their offseason locales for six more weeks.

“What I’m hoping is that by me not demanding it, they’ll actually come in and do more,” said Gibbs, who was pleased that between 40 and 50 players were at Redskin Park on opening day. “I trust our leaders. They’ve been real good about telling me stuff. They say that spending more time away will make them fresher when they come back.”

Defensive end Phillip Daniels, one of the primary advocates for change in the program, is a competitive power lifter who opted to keep working out in his native Georgia. Among the other absent starters were receiver Santana Moss, running back Clinton Portis and safety Sean Taylor, all of whom preferred to remain in the warmth of Florida.

“We understand Phil’s situation,” defensive end Andre Carter said. “He had some surgeries [in January]. It was big on his part to ask us if it was OK [not to be here]. Phil’s a pro. He’ll be right when he gets back.”

Daniels wasn’t in Ashburn, Va., even though strength coach John Hastings addressed his chief complaint by having the players work in position groups instead of at random as in the past.

“Doing stuff by position benefits everybody,” said defensive tackle Joe Salave’a, who left his family behind in Las Vegas as he began his fight to keep his roster spot. “When you separate the bulls from the zebras and the zebras from the cheetahs, it helps. Hopefully that will be a steppingstone to a good offseason. The bulk of the season depends on the kind of offseason we have. The first day is always a shock to the body, but I’m excited to be back. I’m pretty much committed to being here, but if need be, I can find time to get away.”

Center Casey Rabach, one of Daniels’ co-instigators, surprisingly was on hand because his wife is expecting a baby today.

“It’s my last chance to work out for a while, and I can just do my workout instead of going to four or five hours of meetings,” Rabach explained. “That’s a huge difference. Last year, we were putting in a new offense, so we needed some time to meet, but we had meetings in 2005, too, so it wasn’t just the new offense. Everybody I’ve talked to is ecstatic that we have the freedom to be there when it works for us.”

Quarterback Mark Brunell, the eldest Redskin at 36, is curious to see how the change will affect the upcoming season.

“I’ve never been a part of a team that has not asked all the guys to be here the third week of March, so this year’s a little different,” Brunell said. “It remains to be seen how important [being here in March] is. Coach trusts the veteran guys to get ready. What you do miss out on is being together. I think that’s an important aspect.”

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