- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

It was like the first day of school yesterday at Redskin Park as the Washington Redskins gathered en masse for the first time since the end of the ugly 2006 season.

The start of 14 days of organized team activities over the next six weeks in previous years simply marked the move from the weight room to the field. However, since coach Joe Gibbs agreed to allow his players to work out on their own the past six weeks, yesterday was the first day back for veterans like receiver Santana Moss, offensive tackle Jon Jansen, defensive end Phillip Daniels and running back Clinton Portis.

Cornerback Shawn Springs and safety Sean Taylor were the biggest names not on hand. Springs has been reluctant to renegotiate his $7.35 million salary cap number — second largest on the team — while Taylor always has been at Redskin Park only when it’s mandatory. OTA days aren’t. Neither Springs nor Taylor could be reached for comment.

“I feel great because [Gibbs] gave us the time off,” said Moss, who spent the previous four months training at his alma mater, the University of Miami. “It helped me to work in an environment that I like to work around, helped me to build that base without having to … change programs. When you’re up here and it’s still chilly, you can’t run like you run in Miami. It’s good to get away, try to see nothing about football, keep my mind on building what I have to build to be able to come to work when it’s time.”

Daniels credited Gibbs for listening to his team leaders and giving “us the freedom to do some things that we wanted to do.”

Jansen said the players, who worked out at home, fulfilled their part of the deal by “coming back in great shape.”

Ironically, center Casey Rabach, who was among the most vocal in asking Gibbs to change the attendance requirements, spent the offseason here because his wife gave birth to their second child in March.

“I was here, but I was able to do things I wanted to do more,” Rabach said. “The big thing was not having to be in the classroom for meetings. We could concentrate on the lifting and not get burnt out.”

Portis, who did some work in Miami with fellow ex-Hurricane Moss, said coming back north was easier after a longer offseason. He’s taking limited work during OTA days as he continues to rehab from shoulder surgery Dec. 5.

“We’re working back in slowly and trying to make sure I’m here for the season,” said Portis, who missed the last three preseason games after injuring the left shoulder and spent the final seven games on injured reserve after breaking his right hand. “I’m not taking any hits or doing [any] quick movement that can cause injury. I’m just trying to get it loose. We don’t want to have any setbacks so when minicamp comes [June 15-17] we’ll find out [whether I’m ready]. If not, we’ll shoot for training camp [in late July].”

Cornerback Fred Smoot, who re-signed in March after two poor years in Minnesota, was thrilled to be out on the field with the Redskins for the first time since the 2004 finale.

“It was wonderful to be back around the guys I’m used to and have the same coaches for the first time,” said Smoot, who’s heading into his seventh season. “When a player’s happy, you’re going to get his best performances. This is when we become a team, when we lay the foundation. It’s like a house we’re building. We’re laying the concrete. We’re going to continue to build through training camp, and y’all will get the final product when the season starts.”

Notes — The Redskins signed running back Derrick Blaylock and receivers Dan Melendez and Kyle Brown and placed receiver Steven Harris on injured reserve.

Blaylock had attended last weekend’s minicamp on a tryout basis. He ran for career highs of 539 yards and eight touchdowns in 2004 with Kansas City, his fourth season under current Redskins associate head coach Al Saunders, before signing with the New York Jets. Blaylock, 27, will compete with holdover Rock Cartwright to be the No. 3 back behind Portis and Ladell Betts.

Melendez signed with the Chiefs as a rookie free agent last year after catching 61 passes for 891 yards and four touchdowns at Maryland. He participated in the final day of minicamp Sunday.

Brown also was a rookie free agent with the Chiefs last summer. He had 88 catches for 1,329 yards and six touchdowns at Michigan State.

Harris, who spent most of the past two years on Washington’s practice squad, tore his left ACL during Friday’s practice.

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