Redskins players reflect<BR> on autograph seekers

One of the joys of training camp: lots of fans hounding the players for autographs. They line up outside the locker room, shouting players' names. They linger outside the dorms, where there's little competition. And they'll stand outside the Holland Union Building, hoping to catch them after breakfast.

Some days the players' don't mind. Some days it becomes a grind. Most end up signing autographs, though some don't like it at all, which they would only say privately. They just realize it's part of the job. So they do it.

''I love it because I love my fans,'' corner Fred Smoot said. ''They're where I get my energy to play the game. I'm here for the fans. I just thank them for standing out here in the hot sun twice a day, too. They don't have to do that.

''But some of them are very rude. They come up to you demanding that you do things. Let's say that I have a group of little kids that I'm giving autographs to. Here comes a 30-year-old man and I know he's probably going to take it to e-bay and he's bucking all the little kids who I want to give autographs to in the first place. When that happens I don't give them autographs. I just keep signing [for the kids].''

One fan yesterday kept asking players for shoes or sweatbands, annoying several of the players. Rookie Patrick Ramsey had to inform a public relations official, who had to ask the fan to calm down. Usually it's a less-chaotic situation.

''It's a good problem to have,'' kicker Brett Conway said. ''They're extremely dedicated. There's people out here at 7 in the morning. It's tough because you can't get to everybody. You have to give back and you get the kids as good as you can, but you can't stay out here for hours and that's what it would take to get everybody.

''Occasionally you see the same people out here over and over again. You know they're not collecting. If we could eliminate those people... But the kids are great. They're always very polite and say, 'Mr. Conway or Mr. Green.' The adults sometimes are a little pushy. But I do like it. What else could I do where someone wants my autograph.''

That's how guard Ross Tucker feels. As a kid he attended Eagles training camps where he collected autographs, stockpiling a collection of signatures from Randall Cunningham, Jerome Brown and Reggie White among others. He also has a Michael Jordan and a Dan Marino signature.

''I was that annoying little kid who wanted to keep getting their autograph,'' Tucker said. ''I still have all of them. So I totally understand it. I made a promise to myself that if I ever got here I would never say no to an autograph request. Then when you're on this end of it, you realize, 'This is my job and I have places to go and I just don't have time to sign for everyone.' I don't want to turn anyone down but the fact is I have things to do.''

But Tucker has a few tips, too: Know the player's name. It's not hard; check out the number and find that on the roster. He's been called Jon Jansen--which he jokingly says is the opposite of a compliment-- and rookie tight end Robert Royal said he's been confused with Chris Samuels a few hundred times.

''I'll sign and people will walk away and say, 'Who is that?' '' Tucker said. ''The first time anyone had asked for my autograph was a big milestone in my life. Growing up that's all I ever wanted was for someone to want my autograph. Now it's like an everyday thing. I was leaving today and some 6-year-old came up to me and said, 'My mom wants your autograph.' ''



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