Team Report: Washington

The process of integrating the Washington Redskins' many newcomers began last week with the offseason conditioning program. <BR><BR>One club official estimated more than 50 players reported for the start of voluntary lifting and stretching sessions, and seven of the Redskins' 11 recent acquisitions were counted among those on hand for the first day.

Guard Randy Thomas, a New York Jet for the first four years of his NFL career, was among those excited by the prospect of meeting the bulk of his new teammates.

"They've been home; I've been home," Thomas said. "This date has been kind of important for me to get here and meet these guys. It's working well."

Such introductions are particularly important for these Redskins because there are so many newcomers. Several players acknowledged that the time to build chemistry is during the offseason program, rather than at training camp when jobs are being contested.

Chemistry has been a consistent problem on recent Redskins teams. Frequent turnover of coaches and players had the few mainstays making public pleas for continuity at the end of the 2002 season. Whether the aggressive start to free agency disrupts the process of building from last year remains unclear.

"That question will be answered soon enough," said linebacker LaVar Arrington, a key proponent of continuity. "I think it'll be answered on the field. I don't think anybody can sit here and tell right now. I just think we've got a good bunch of guys. Nobody's coming in here thinking they're too good."

The program itself balanced between building power and promoting flexibility and stamina -- perhaps best represented by the separate titles of strength coach John Hastings and conditioning coach Mark Smith.

Chip Morton held both titles last year, but he left to join Marvin Lewis' new staff in Cincinnati. Hastings was promoted from assistant strength and conditioning coach while Smith was hired from the University of Kansas, where he spent the past year after four under coach Steve Spurrier at Florida.

Smith appears to be highly motivated and very detailed in his preparation. He agreed with the players who said there is a higher purpose in these workouts.

"You've got to be together, have team unity," Smith said. "I tell the guys there are going to be times when we're going through the workouts and you see another teammate who's struggling. You've got to pull him. We're going to work as a team, we're going to play hard as a team, and we're going to win as a team."

New guard Dave Fiore was especially impressed with Smith, whose focus on "the little things" extends to keeping players' heels in a perfect line during exercises.

"I like how even with the simplest things, there's attention to detail," Fiore said. "You get that mindset to do all the little things. That's really important, because if you do all the little things, then the big things will come. It's an attitude, a development of the personality of your team. And it's going to pay off in those tight situations in the games."

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