Report from Osaka

Ever want to take a lively plane flight? Try traveling with the Washington Redskins. On the 13-hour journey from Dulles to Osaka, one could witness the following: _ LaVar Arrington playing chess with the same intensity in his eyes that he uses to scare quarterbacks and.....

_ Brett Conway wearing long blue compression hose and walking the aisles constantly to preserve his most valuable football asset, his legs;

_ players playing dominoes, cards, DVDs and leaving their plush business class seats to visit the cheerleaders in the back of the plane;

_ players putting mustard on rookie Akil Smith's lips while he was sleeping _ and taking pictures of it;

_ the following announcement, made over the plane's intercom: "Will the person that has coach Hunley's shoes please return them?"

It was a long flight, but the Redskins finally got here late Thursday. There was a routine security briefing at the hotel, and Fred Smoot settled in by giving teammates this bit of financial advice when shopping with yen: "Just add two zeros to everything."

The only down note was word that defensive end Otis Leverette missed the flight after an MRI diagnosed ligament damage in his knee. He'll be out six weeks.

Friday morning was the first practice at the Osaka Dome, a converted baseball stadium with lousy artificial turf. Crews were still stitching it together as practice began. Sonny Jurgensen and Joe Theismann threw 30-yard passes for fun at one end of the field, much to the thrill of the few fans on hand.

Chris Samuels missed the practice because he was sick. It was inevitable that the food and jet-leg would get to somebody.

"Remind me not to ask him where to eat," Kipp Vickers said.

Afterward, the Japanese media gathered around the players. Most of the questions were routine, except when Sage Rosenfels was asked to raise his fist and yell "Yattaro Dei" into the camera. It means "Let's Go", but Rosenfels needed several attempts to come close to getting it right.

Lots more Japanese reporters attended an afternoon press conference, so many that it rendered LaVar Arrington speechless for a change. Arrington stumbled through his remarks, using the word "overwhelming" several times. "I'm kind of nervous," Arrington said. "That doesn't happen too often, so I'm going to stop talking."

At night, there was a party for everyone _ 49ers and Redskins alike. Redskins owner Dan Snyder, 49ers director John York and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue were asked to participate in a drum ceremony on stage.

York surprisingly had rhythm. Tagliabue had good effort. Snyder? He looked like he'd rather be somewhere else.


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