- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2011

John Beck’s hands were red. Bright red. The sort of red that grabs your gaze and won’t let go.

As rain tumbled through the overcast and thick air at Redskins Park on Wednesday, Beck threw the football. Again and again. The balls were new and wet. Each time the quarterback grabbed one, oil leeched out and covered his hands with red film.

That sort of thing happens when you’re getting 75 to 80 percent of the repetitions five days into training camp as the only experienced quarterback in practice.

Thursday, quarterbacks Kellen Clemens and Rex Grossman are eligible to participate, after being sidelined because they signed as free agents. They’ll cut into Beck’s near-solo act. He’s trying to take advantage of the head start in the competition to start at quarterback that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan sees as wide-open.

“Oh, yeah,” Shanahan said. “Without a doubt.”

The arm that makes Beck a contender for the job was on display Wednesday, along with inconsistency that keeps the contest open. Take a three-throw sequence. A defender jostled him as he heaved a deep ball that wavered and fluttered its way downfield — not an uncommon occurrence Wednesday. Groans from the small group of fans on hand spilled onto the field. Two tight spirals over the middle followed.

“I wanted to be able to come out and get the reps, get the experience and make some mistakes,” said Beck, whose five games of NFL experience all came in 2007 with the Miami Dolphins. “Leading into days where I’ll get less reps, that’ll be an advantage.”

Adding Clemens and Grossman to the mix, Beck believes, will help these situations. Instead of sitting in the pocket for repetition after repetition, Beck will have the opportunity to consult with Shanahan or quarterbacks coach Matt LeFleur when something goes wrong. He doesn’t have to be the one under center each play.

That provides more time for Beck’s early project, working to eliminate unneeded movements when he moves through his progressions downfield. An extra hitch here or unnecessary step there can mean the difference between becoming intimately acquainted with a 250-pound linebacker and a crisp completion.

During unofficial workouts this summer in the midst of the NFL’s lockout, Beck tried bringing a camera to catch those mistakes. There wasn’t anyone on the sideline watching his feet and telling him what to cut out. None of it compares to analyzing film with fellow quarterbacks after camp practices.

Beck is earnest and detailed when he speaks, picking the minute aspects of his performance with the confidence of a starting quarterback.

“It’s really different when you see it on tape,” Beck said. “It’s about eliminating those things so you can get through your progressions as quick and fluid as possible because you have guys coming in trying to take your head off.”

For now, Beck is looking forward to lessening the burden on his fatigued arm. Earlier this week, he tried to keep track of each repetition to avoid overuse. That soon faded into throw after throw. Then he returned to throw balls for the walk-through at the end of the afternoon session.

“Maybe it’s my fault,” Beck said. “I might’ve lost track of how many balls I had on my arm. I started to feel it a little bit yesterday.”

Added coach Mike Shanahan: “A quarterback’s arm is always getting sore, especially when there’s only two quarterbacks for a couple of days. John Beck is a smart guy. Those arms will be sore one day, but feel a lot better the next. They have to take care of them. We can’t overwork them.”

This is what Beck wanted. To be here. To have a chance. And the rest of it doesn’t matter. Even red hands.

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