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With Rigorous Schedule, Zorn Tests Players

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With a demanding training camp schedule, Jim Zorn is setting a tone far different from his predecessor, Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs.

Zorn's training camp schedule from July 20-Aug. 14 consists of 20 practice days, 18 of which are 2-a-day sessions.

In addition, the team will host an intra-squad scrimmage on July 26, as part of Fan Appreciation Day at training camp.

Add in two preseason games during that span, too. The Redskins take on the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio on Sunday, Aug. 3 and the Buffalo Bills in the FedExField opener on Saturday, Aug. 9.

Players report to training camp on Saturday. As in years past, they will be housed at National Conference Center in nearby Lansdowne, Va., and bused to Redskins Park for practices.

The first team meeting is mid-afternoon on Saturday.

On Saturday night, coaches will put in their first installation to run in Sunday morning's practice.

For morning practices, players will mostly wear full gear, with some contact in 11-on-11 work. Some sessions could go nearly two-and-a-half hours, about 30 minutes longer than previous years. And it will be an up-tempo pace.

"There will be a heavy morning practice," Zorn said.

The afternoon practices will typically take less than two hours. Players will be in shorts and pads.

Some veterans will get a periodic break from the 2-a-days.

"You will see some days will be a morning practice and a special teams practice in the afternoon," Zorn said. "There won't be anything else but special teams."

That means players like Clinton Portis, London Fletcher and others who don't participate on special teams may be given the afternoon off.

Gibbs's approach was different from 2004-07. With a mostly veteran club, he preferred to lighten the training camp workload at times.

For example, last year's training camp had only a handful of 2-a-day sessions.

Zorn is mindful of not overworking his players, but he doesn't want to shy away from hard work or contact on the practice fields.

This is football, after all.

"We have to pick our times to have physical contact," Zorn said. "I think our lines--they'll have physical contact every day. Our running backs and our linebackers [will have contact]. Even our defensive backs and receivers have to learn how to block or shed blockers downfield.

"It's the live contact, where you're taking a guy to the ground and leaving your feet--we have to watch that [to avoid injuries]."

Part of the reason Zorn's training camp schedule is intense is because he needs time to install the West Coast offense this year.

His version of the West Coast offense is expected to be similar to Mike Holmgren's in Seattle, where Zorn was a quarterbacks coach from 2001-07.

Many of the Redskins' run plays will remain the same from last year. But the passing game will be different. It will emphasize more short and intermediate routes.

The learning curve could take some time.

Quarterbacks must learn new terminology and adjust to a timing offense. Receivers must learn new routes. Pass blockers must learn new techniques that aid a short passing attack.

Defensive players must also adjust, Zorn said.

"Our defense will go back and say, 'Okay, they ran a screen [play],'" he said. "Now the next time the offense runs a screen, the defense is going to adjust to it. They are going to put in a new front and coverage and they are going to shut down [the screen play] that was successful.

"That's the way offense and defense work. That's what makes football so great. It is all about adjusting."

In the first few days of training camp, Zorn will watch closely to see which players stayed in shape during their time off the past five weeks.

That will be part of the evaluation process as he formulates his first NFL roster.

"It is not only physical preparation, it is also that mental preparation that they have to [show]," Zorn said. "They have to get themselves emotionally prepared and spiritually prepared, in my mind as well. There is a balance there.

"If they can take care of all those things, then they will be ready to go."

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