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At Mini-Camp, There's Plenty to Shout About

Gregg Williams shouted out "Dig in deep" from the sidelines as his defensive charges prepared for a goal-line play. Marcus Washington yelled "It's going left" to his defensive teammates, his read on where the play was headed.

Todd Collins barked "Hut, Hut" at the line of scrimmage, and players grunted as the play got underway. After Clinton Portis pushed into the end zone for a touchdown, Al Saunders shouted "Way to go" to his offense.

The Redskins Park practice fields were full of chatter--to go along with plenty of action--on Friday afternoon as the team opened its three-day, full-squad mini-camp. The camp culminates the Redskins' offseason, which has included 12 days of Organized Team Activity practice sessions.

The scene included more than two dozen media members. It was the first time that newspaper, broadcast and Internet reporters could attend a Redskins practice (apart from the Rookie Camp last month) since last January. What did they see?

In the first half-hour, special teams coordinator Danny Smith oversaw punt and kick coverage at mid-field. Meantime, running backs coach Earnest Byner threw passes with his star pupil Clinton Portis in an end zone.

Nearby, defensive coordinator-defensive line coach Greg Blache instructed his linemen on technique in the end zone. To the right, wide receivers Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd and David Patten caught line-drive passes from a machine.

And in the opposite end zone, assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel worked with his offensive linemen, driving blocking sleds across the field.

Later, wide receivers and defensive backs worked on a drill in which they leaped high in the air to bat down a white volleyball. Six-foot-2 wide receiver Ataveus Cash, a roster long-shot, was particularly impressive in the drill.

During passing drills, Lloyd flashed his speed early and often. The 6-0, 192-pounder ran one route so precise and fast that he had to wait a second for the pass to arrive.

On the defensive side, linebackers and defensive backs focused on ball awareness: an assistant coach would toss a sideline pass to a young intern--dressed only in shorts and a tee-shirt--who would quickly be surrounded by Redskins defenders.

In another drill, coach Steve Jackson, working with safeties, threw a series of passes low to the ground, forcing defensive backs to scoop up the ball before it hit ground. The drill called to mind Sean Taylor's two fumble recovery returns for touchdowns last season, including the 51-yard return in the Redskins' 17-10 Wild Card win over Tampa Bay in the postseason.

After practice, head coach Joe Gibbs said the mini-camp provided players with "mental work" as they gear up for the 2006 season.

"The good thing about OTAs and mini-camps in today's football is that you get a lot of mental work," Gibbs said. "You get to put in the offensive and defensive packages and all of the things that you want to do. The bad thing is that you are not in pads and you are not hitting people.

"A player can look awful good out here running around in shorts. Some of them, when they wear pads, their play elevates. Other guys drop. So you can't get carried away with what you see out here, as far as making evaluations."

At quarterback, Collins and Jason Campbell shared the reps during practice. Although there is no depth chart at this point of the offseason--second-year QB Casey Bramlet also managed a series during drills--it appeared Collins worked more with expected starters like Portis and Moss.

Regarding Campbell, Gibbs said: "He has done everything that we have asked of him. He has worked extremely hard. Last year was a big learning curve for him. This year, there is some new terminology on things that we're doing. He has worked extremely hard at it. He is going to play a lot in the preseason and we'll see how he does."

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