Camp Update 8/3/01

CARLISLE, Pa.,--Rod Gardner hustled to Dickinson College the night before, hopping a plane at 9:30 p.m. out of Atlanta. He arrived two hours later, signed a contract, went to bed and woke up six hours earlier than he was used to for the past week. Which was OK with him. He got what he wanted: a good contract. And the Redskins got what they wanted: their first round pick in training camp.

The receiver from Clemson practiced today for the first time, working with the second string. The question is, how long will he remain there? Gardner wasn't drafted to watch everyone else play, after all. But, at the very least, he'll be the No. 3 receiver behind Michael Westbrook and Kevin Lockett. But all that mattered to Gardner today was that he finally arrived.

''Right now I'm just out here trying to play the catch-up game,'' Gardner said. ''I want to learn the routes as quick as possible. You see everyone on TV in camp and I'm the only one out. There comes a point in time when I was just ready to be here and get it done.''

Gardner made several catches in practice, but nothing spectacular. He exchanged minor trash talk with his new pal, corner Fred Smoot. And, after one Gardner catch, Smoot shouted out, ''My boy is here!''

The near highlight came when the Redskins ran a receiver option. Gardner took two steps back, caught the ball and looked downfield for Westbrook. But he decided Westbrook was covered, so he tucked the ball in and ran. Remember that play. It's one he also ran at Clemson. ''I've got a strong arm,'' Schottenheimer said.

The Redskins plan for receivers coach Richard Mann to spend extra time with Gardner, filling him in on the offense and what he's missed.

At least Gardner felt in shape, saying afterward that he wasn't tired. The Carlisle heat doesn't compare to the heat he endured playing at Clemson. ''What he showed me today was that he's right on point,'' Smoot said. ''He's worked at it,'' Schottenheimer said. ''It won't be too long before he's in a groove.''


The players gathered in a circle after practice Friday morning, as they always do. It's a chance for Marty Schottenheimer to rehash the workout. Friday, it was a chance to rip into his players for what he perceived as a lackadaisacal effort.

Schottenheimer gestured sternly with his arms and barked at his players, his voice audible from 50 yards away. He cussed a little and told them, ''It's your team! It's up to you what you do!''

''We've got guys feeling sorry for themselves right now,'' Schottenheimer said. ''That's typical. Mentally you get tired, but the thing we don't want to do is practice mistakes. I don't feel a compulsion to show some bark just to do it. I'm being honest and showing how I feel. Up until now it went good, but today was not acceptable.''


Rising: Tackle Kenard Lang was much more visible Friday morning, batting down a few passes and intercepting a tipped ball. It's the first sign of life Lang has exhibited in camp. And it was welcome. But the question remains: how will he do against the run, especially if he continues to play too erect.

Falling: The Redskins cut receiver Tommy Nash to make room for Gardner. Can't fall any more than that.


Bruce Smith took the day off Friday, giving his aging knees a break. . . Linebacker LaVar Arrington returned to practice, but did not participate in any contact drills. . . . Quarterback Jeff George did not throw again for the third straight day. There's a chance he won't throw again until Monday. Surely this is more than just a case of a tired arm. But George told the Redskins last season that he often gets a sore arm early in camp. This might be nothing more than that, but the longer it drags on the bigger a worry it becomes. . . .Receiver Darnerien McCants and linebacker Kevin Mitchell were carted off with sprained ankles. No early word on their status.

John Keim covers the Redskins for The Journal Newspapers and is a correspondent for Pro Football Weekly.

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