- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS — There was the business of filling out his coaching staff, visiting with random players, watching video of the Senior Bowl game and practices, meeting with the front office to discuss the start of free agency, making decisions about the roster and putting a bid in for a house in Northern Virginia.

And, not last and certainly not least, there is the matter of finishing the playbook, a process that remains in progress.

Jim Zorn has worked nonstop since he became the Washington Redskins’ new coach on Feb. 9.

“I’ve been getting in early in the morning and the next time I look up, it’s after dinner,” he said.

Zorn’s busy schedule continued at the NFL Scouting Combine. Following a 30-minute interview, he spent two hours with his offensive coaches to go over the new passing game, spent time at the Indiana Convention Center evaluating prospects, conducted a 12-minute group interview and then talked with prospects.

“I hit the ground running, and I think it’s a good pace,” Zorn said. “I haven’t really felt overwhelmed because there are a lot of people doing their job and if that happens, it makes it so much better. We’re getting a lot accomplished in a short amount of time.

“The thing we’re scrambling to do is get the playbook written up and written up in such a way that it’s clear because that will be some of the bigger changes will take place in the passing game.”

With the arrival of offensive coordinator Sherman Smith to Indianapolis on Thursday night, Zorn can hold a full staff meeting, complete with the five new arrivals: Zorn, Smith, assistant head coach-running backs Stump Mitchell, offensive assistant Chris Meidt and defensive line coach John Palermo.

Zorn also has been briefed on the Redskins’ salary cap situation and has received thumbnail sketches of veterans who will become free agents on Friday.

“Everything’s been really smooth,” executive vice president Vinny Cerrato said. “We went over the players and then had our free agent meetings. He has somewhat of a feel at this point but he’s been busy with everything like the offense. I think they’re catching up to speed.”

Zorn has met with players who have stopped by Redskin Park and has spoken on the phone with backup quarterback Todd Collins, who along with kick returner Rock Cartwright, are the Redskins’ two prominent free agents.

Cartwright, a special teams ace but third-string running back, will test the open market but a team source said the Redskins expect to retain him after agent Drew Rosenhaus can’t find a legitimate running back opportunity for his client.

“I’ve met Rock and we’ve had a couple of good conversations,” Zorn said. “I hope we get him [back]. He has real value. I see him as a Redskin, and I hope he does, too.”

Zorn confirmed he wants Collins to return but as the No. 2. There will be no competition — Jason Campbell is the starter.

“We’ve told Todd he’s important to this club, but he’s not going to get that chance [to compete] because Jason is our starting QB and here’s why: Jason must know he’s the starter,” Zorn said. “I don’t want to go into mini-camp or training camp with him not knowing that or having the job up for grabs. I don’t want Jason to think, ‘Oh, my gosh, if I make one mistake, I’m going to be pulled.’ That’s not the way to go into camp. He’s going to play 16 games, and he’s going to lead us into the playoffs as far as I’m concerned.”

Collins has to decide whether to pursue a chance where he could compete for a starting job in, for example, Atlanta or Miami, or return to the Redskins.

“He’ll be good for Jason because it’s a veteran instructing a guy when I’m not in the room,” Zorn said.

Zorn and Campbell will begin working March 17.

“I don’t know if I would call it a ‘Quarterback School,’ but I want to go out there and help him with some drill work,” Zorn said.

Asked whether Campbell fits what a West Coast offense requires of the triggerman, Zorn said: “If Jason was a plodder, a guy who was a slow drop-back guy and couldn’t move, it would be difficult for him. But he has excellent feet. I’ll have to drill him on the idea of moving, changing directions and getting rid of the ball on rhythm. I think he can do it.”

The Redskins aren’t expected to be active in free agency, which will give Zorn and his staff more time to evaluate the draft class. Washington has six picks, including the 21st overall selection.

“We continued our process and going through it with the [assistant] coaches, but we had to juggle around the meetings because he was so busy hiring his coaches,” director of player personnel Scott Campbell said. “We were informing him of what we were doing the whole time. He’s been great to work with so far.”

On his new job for three weeks, Zorn said the feeling of being a head coach “is sinking in very strongly.”

“I feel very good about it,” he said. “I didn’t know if I would have a sense of being overwhelmed. … There will be pressures coming that I don’t even know about yet. I’m not going to be nervous about that. If I can use common sense, I’m hoping those decisions will come in a natural way.”

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