Washington Redskins return to business
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — The Washington Redskins welcomed old players back Tuesday and reached out to some new ones, the start of a frenetic week for a last-place team trying to rebuild itself in a compressed timeframe.
Yet, in one sense, nothing changed during the 4½-month lockout. Marquee disappointments-turned-distractions Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth were still on the roster — still a pair of simmering, tiresome issues that needed to be resolved.
"Albert, McNabb, you name it, we need to start winning ballgames right here," Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo said, "and forget about all the drama that we go through each and every year."
Orakpo was among several players who walked in the front door at Redskins Park shortly before the 10 a.m. start time decreed for the reopening of NFL business following a 4½-month lockout. Quarterback John Beck and tight end Chris Cooley weren't far behind, and soon a group of players were on the practice field, going through some basic conditioning drills. More players arrived throughout the day to meet with coaches and get reacquainted with the play book.
"I came for the free lunch," quipped receiver Anthony Armstrong.
Neither McNabb nor Haynesworth was among the early arrivals, hardly a surprise given the lingering acrimony from last season. McNabb was benched twice by coach Mike Shanahan and demoted to third-string for the final three games, while Haynesworth feuded often with the coach and was suspended for the final four games.
The lockout meant Shanahan couldn't trade or release either player until this week. Now, with time running short, the Redskins had little leverage to strike a deal because other teams know the team has wanted to be rid of both. McNabb and Haynesworth will be required to report when training camp opens Thursday if they're still part of the team, an awkward and potentially divisive reunion for an organization trying to move forward.
"With Donovan, I don't know what's going to happen with that situation," Beck said. "There's no telling. I'm sure they have a plan."
Even if Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen were willing to divulge the plan, they were too busy to spend any time talking about it. They were working the phones to start the process of signing draft picks and undrafted rookies. Tuesday was also the day that teams could begin negotiating with unrestricted free agents, although those players can't be formally signed until Friday afternoon.
The Redskins' own pool of free agents includes Santana Moss, Rex Grossman, Carlos Rogers and Rocky McIntosh. The team needs to address most positions on both sides of the ball, with right tackle, running back, receiver, defensive line, linebacker, cornerback and quarterback all potential departments to visit when a 6-10 team makes a trip to the free agent store.
"With this whole free agency opening up, it's going to be crazy," Beck said. "Our team's going to look different. I don't think it's a secret that we're going to be bringing guys in to compete. I know my position, there's going to be guys coming in. Could be one, could be two, you just never know. It's all about putting together the best team you can."
Beck will face scrutiny like never before, having made the climb from obscure backup to co-favorite for the starting quarterback job despite the fact he hasn't taken a snap in a regular season game since he was a rookie in 2007. Shanahan effusively praised Beck after signing him a year ago, and Beck was proactive during the lockout — arranging throwing sessions with receivers and teaching the play book to the rookies during the player-organized minicamps.
"He's been basically showing countless effort to be out there and do the work," Armstrong said. "He's flown in from California time and time again to throw routes. I almost had to ignore his phone calls and text messages. Always he wants to throw."
Beck said he didn't know many details of the lockout-ending agreement because he doesn't have cable television in his house, but he knew enough to make a beeline for Redskins Park on Monday soon after the deal was announced. He wasn't allowed in because the security guard didn't recognize him. Plus, he was a day early.
The Redskins are expected to re-sign Grossman to compete with Beck in what promises to be the No. 1 story of camp — assuming McNabb and Haynesworth have moved on.
"There's going to be a lot of questions about who's going to be in that role," center Casey Rabach said. "Obviously the leader of the team, the leader of the offense. I think John Beck has definitely stepped up in his leadership role this offseason. It'll be interesting to see who will be our starting quarterback."
Players will take physicals Thursday, with the first practice set for Friday. With no offseason program as a foundation, the new players are going to face a steep learning curve.
"It'll be difficult because they haven't been in a meeting with (offensive coordinator) Kyle Shanahan," Armstrong said. "Sometimes he speaks extremely fast, and you're left with your head spinning."