Thursday, May 3, 2007

All but a handful of the 88 invited players will find themselves in unfamiliar situations today when the Washington Redskins open their three-day rookie minicamp at Redskin Park.

Safety LaRon Landry from LSU, the sixth pick in last weekend’s draft, will be the premier attraction, but he’s as clueless about assistant head coach Gregg Williams’ complex scheme as all the other defensive hopefuls. The offensive prospects will be similarly awed by associate head coach Al Saunders’ massive playbook.

While coach Joe Gibbs said he has changed much of his offseason program, beginning with the radical step of allowing the veterans to work on their own from the end of last season until next Tuesday, rookie minicamp is the same as ever.

After months of scouting, the Redskins are pretty sure about their newest players’ raw athletic skills. The three-day test is designed to see how Landry and the rest of the former college stars react to the stress of the situation and how quickly they can begin assimilating the information that will have to become second nature by late August if they’re going to make the roster.

Certainly, this is no make-or-break weekend. It’s a weekend for first impressions, which sometimes turn out to be accurate. Quarterback Heath Shuler, the third pick in 1994, looked lost and threw passes into the ground during his introduction to the NFL and never got much better. But cornerback Champ Bailey (seventh, 1999) looked good right from the start en route to becoming a perennial Pro Bowl choice.

Aside from Landry, Williams will be most eager to look at linebackers Dallas Sartz (fifth round) and H.B. Blades (sixth) with only four players at the position with NFL experience on the roster.

Saunders will pay special attention to quarterback Jordan Palmer (sixth round) with backups Mark Brunell and Todd Collins both at least 35. Tight end Tyler Ecker (seventh) will receive his first chance to show he deserves to be in the mix with veterans Chris Cooley and Todd Yoder.

Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach leads a group of nine rookie free agents. Howard defensive tackle Edwin Piner is one of 61 players invited on a tryout basis. Thirteen players previously have been on NFL rosters but not long enough to accrue a season.

Linebacker Zak Keasey, a tryout player in 2005, played in that season’s opener while offensive tackle Jon Alston and running back Jonathan Combs made the practice squad. Receiver Mike Espy, cornerback John Eubanks and defensive end Joe Sykes were tryout players last year who saw regular-season action. With Washington three men under the NFL’s roster limit, at least three tryout players likely will be invited to return for the full squad minicamp June 15-17.

Notes — Defensive end Renaldo Wynn renegotiated his contract, saving the Redskins $1.52 million on the salary cap. Cornerback David Macklin and offensive tackle Jason Fabini both signed one-year deals with $40,000 bonuses on top of the veteran minimum base salary. … Washington’s rookie pool is $3.4 million.

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