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Jurgensen, Huff Reflect On Redskins' Changes

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They've seen a few training camps. Loved the good times, survived the lean ones.

Hall of Famers Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff, together as players and broadcasters for 45 years, await the opening of yet another camp on Thursday with the same hopes and expectations as the fans.

"There's a whole different dynamic to this training camp than we've seen here in the last few years and I think it's good," Jurgensen says. "I'm looking forward to seeing how everybody meshes."

Much has changed since Jurgensen and Huff last sat together in the radio booth in January as the club concluded a 4-12 season. Both eagerly await a look at the latest incarnation of the Redskins.

Jurgensen says the most important element of the early days of practice will revolve around "how everybody grasps the new systems."

That covers a lot of turf.

Head coach Mike Shanahan has put the offense in the hands of a new coordinator, his son Kyle. Jim Haslett takes over the defense. The Shanahan theory is to emphasize the run while Haslett, implementing a 3-4 look, wants more aggressive pursuit of the ball and a radical increase in the number of turnovers.

Huff agrees with his old buddy about the impact of coaches and how they teach and motivate.

"The most important thing to see is how the coaching staff coaches. A new staff. Again. How do ballplayers react to people they don't know?" he wonders.

An off-season highlighted by strong participation in voluntary workouts should ease some of those concerns but there's still the shock of the new. Pads and contact make the coming practices far more intense than any minicamp exercise.

Jurgensen counsels patience – "without question" – as everyone gets acclimated.

In looking at the team that will take the field on Thursday, Huff starts with a couple of known factors.

"Donovan McNabb will be running the offense and London Fletcher will be running the defense. Just like Sonny and Sam," Huff says. "We have to have continuity. Physically we're equal to almost every team in the NFL."

They agree that the Redskins must make strides first against their rivals in the NFC East. The Redskins went 0-6 in division games last season and haven't been over .500 in division play since 2005. The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles both made the playoffs in 2009.

"You have to be able to compete with those people," Huff says.

Jurgensen likes the idea of debuting against the Cowboys, the consensus pick for the NFC East title, in the opener at home on Sept. 12. The Redskins play seven games against teams that reached the playoffs last season and can't afford wasted opportunities.

The non-divisional slate includes the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts (Super Bowl runners-up) and Minnesota Vikings, who reached the NFC championship game.

"It's a difficult schedule but I like that you're getting Dallas in your own ballpark and you get the chance to surprise and steal one early," Jurgensen says.

The vibrancy of the offseason, the positive nature of the changes and sense of direction give Huff reasons for optimism.

"I really like Shanahan and the way he handles himself. You've got a new front office with (general manager) Bruce Allen. You can feel the difference," he says. "And if we can feel the difference, the players can feel the difference."

What they feel, what they grasp and how quickly they do so are the opening story lines of camp. The rest of the tale remains to be written.


Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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