A Fan's Eye View - The Final Chapter

It rained on Friday morning (July 26), more than a drizzle but less than a downpour. Despite my belief that practice would be cancelled, I headed out to Dickinson campus one last time. Once again, I headed over to the Student Union and arrived just as Champ Bailey and Fred Smoot were signing autographs. Pretty good of them to come out in the morning and get wet just to please the fans.

I'd made an autograph sheet covered with Redskin-oriented jpg. files I'd filched off the ‘Net and I'm glad I did. Mine was signed by Steve Spurrier, Sage Rosenfels, Champ Bailey, LaVar Arrington and Fred Smoot. Not bad at all – it's ready for framing.

Umbrella in hand, I headed over to Biddle Field. The field is wet but temperatures are great – in the seventies. It takes a while for everyone to come out this morning and the team is doing calisthenics – that reminded me of Camp Marty from last year. The players break and divide into squads for drills. Once again, I watched the offensive linemen drill. I'm not sure why as I can't for the life of me tell much from them (other than I'd really hate to be hit by any of those guys – it makes an impression when they whack a dummy).

The bleat of the team air horn signals a change in the drill routine and the squads amble over to the main field for 11 on 11s. It's not a real scrimmage but it's getting closer – there's more hitting and it seemed the defensive linemen were allowed to do more bull rushing.

About 45 minutes after the rain ends, The Danny's helicopter appears.

Must be nice to hang out at the office till you get the ‘it's dry' message and fly up for practice. Once again I link up with Haybaily – he and his wife came up in their RV from North Carolina. He gave me a bottle of the B-B-Q sauce he sells at his restaurants and I'm looking forward to trying that.

Oh yeah…you guys wanted to read about the Redskins, not porcine cuisine. Drills – these were largely passing drills. On each play there are two different WRs, different RBs and a different QB. DBs are rotated frequently but as far as I can tell there's not nearly so much substitution of linemen.

There are the highlights:

· Derrius Thompson drops two passes…not a good showing.

· Of the backs, Rock Cartwright looks about the best making receptions out of the backfield. Kenny Watson made catches, but they were easy catches.

· Gardner and Smoot (I think) tangle up on a pass play coming down rolling around battling for the ball. I think Gardner ultimately got it, but it was a spirited match up.

· The passing is getting better but I don't see an emerging Johnny Unitas out there.

· One weakly thrown pass (either Weurffel or Matthews) is batted up at the line and caught by Shamar Finney, who returns it for a TD.

While the drills are fairly interesting, my focus shifts to the sidelines. Right in front of us is LaVar Arrington. The fans call to him but he won't respond until a raucous blond lady yells, "Come on LaVar. Give us a smile ‘cause you're soooooo pretty."

He breaks up, turns to her and says, "That was a pretty good one." We get some nice photos. In fact, our linebackers are sitting in a row in front of me – LaVar #11 (training camp number), Trotter #54 and Armstead #98 (again, training camp number). It makes for a nice photo – the 2001 NFC Pro Bowl linebacking corps. I wonder how much contractual money is sitting there.

My eyes stray down the field a bit – I notice that a certain diminutive billionaire has made his appearance. Daniel Snyder and his small posse are on the sidelines. A blonde woman in a blue quilted jacket greets him (I'm assuming it's his wife – they pose for a number of photo together). He's with a gentleman I assumed was Fred Drasner (it wasn't) and they're joined by Joe Mendes. More photo opportunities. Marvin Lewis stops by to chat so it's getting to be an interesting little group out there.

And so it ends. The practice is over and my time at Carlisle is up. The rumor going around is that the Skins may not come back to Carlisle in the future. I hope that's not true because I've come to enjoy this little college town and the whole training camp thing.


*I think the team will be o.k. I know my columns express dissatisfaction with the QB play, but I'm a tough critic and, after all, it's training camp. The team did look better….sharper…as the days progressed.

· Redskin fans as a group are well behaved and show a lot of class. There are always a few cretins in every crowd, but don't be afraid to bring the wives and kids up to camp. Aren't you glad you're not Eagle fans?

· If you go, take time to talk to some of the old timers. You'll hear some great old Redskin stories. There are fans who've been to camps dating back to the sixties.

· Stephen Davis looks to be in great shape and perhaps is assuming more of a leadership role. He seemed to be having a good time and he was running with speed and power in drills. Maybe not having Westbrook around is better for his psyche than he'd care to admit.

· Darrell Green just loves this stuff…just loves it! You can tell he'll miss training camp. I wouldn't bet against him coming back for another year if he's physically sound.

· I will never be convinced that training camp is all that tough. There are plenty of breaks and lots of ‘standing around' time. These are young men at the peak of their abilities. The drills aren't that rough – they're more to work on timing and developing chemistry.

· When you watch the drills, you begin to understand how flawed the training camp is as a process for evaluating talent. The young guys trying to make the team are almost always at the mercy of other players. For example, that undrafted running back may look terrible when a jaded vet offensive lineman decides not to throw a block on a play. I noticed on two occasions that Skaggs wasn't able to show his pass catching ability when Wuerffel underthrew the ball.

· Who's in shape? The great news is that, unlike last year when there were a bunch of lardy boys, most everyone's fit. If you can find any excess weight on our defensive backs, you're getting more intimate with them than I care to think about. Same with the running backs and linebackers.

· Who's not in shape? In a word, Wilkinson. Big Daddy must have spent the off-season asking for double cheese on everything.

· Bryan Johnson looked good during the first few days, making a number of receptions coming out of the backfield.

· The most recognizable player at a distance is Ethan Albright. The guy has BRIGHT red hair. He seemed to be involved in drills a lot. During scrimmage, I saw Moore out there, but it seems as though the team is going to find out if Grau or a less expensive option can get the job done before they cut Albright. And while I saw Grau on the field a lot, I could not begin to assess his performance. A lot of snapping drills are run without a defense on the field. You can discern technique, perhaps, but I think we all know the proof lies in performance under pressure.

I know these columns have been over long, but it's been my goal to paint a picture of what it's like for a fan to visit the Redskins' training camp.

I'm no expert on this stuff – there are fans with much stronger football backgrounds who could provide more meaningful analysis. Also, there's a lot going on at any given time during practice. It may be that while I was over watching offensive line drills, there was something significant going on with the defensive backs. Some fans pick one spot and camp out; I prefer to move around so other camp reports will no doubt have things that I missed and I'll look forward to reading those.
Here's hoping I get a chance to meet you next year in Carlisle.

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