Redskins face new year without same old team


Mark Rypien and Earnest Byner are in Cleveland. Ricky Sanders is in Atlanta. Art Monk is a New York Jet. Eric Williams, Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic and Danny Copeland are retired. Charles Mann and Brad Edwards are looking for work.

They've broken up the old Joe Gibbs gang in Washington.

Just 18 months after they came within a fumbled handoff of going to the NFC title game and 30 months after winning the Super Bowl, the Redskins will have a new look today when they report to training camp in Carlisle, Pa., for the 32nd straight year.

As Gibbs starts his second year as a NASCAR owner and TV personality and Richie Petitbon begins a hiatus after being fired in January, Norv Turner takes over as head coach.

Not only are there many new players, but there are new systems on offense and defense. Turner brings in the Dallas offense, with Reggie Brooks in the Emmitt Smith role. New defensive coordinator Ron Lynn has installed a gambling, blitzing defense that was his trademark at San Diego and Cincinnati.

Turner likes the way the players have made the transition in the non-contact workouts at Redskin Park.

"I think the work we've done the last three or four months has paid off. They look like they've been in these offenses and defenses longer than last April," Turner said.

He particularly likes what he sees of his most expensive off-season acquisition, linebacker Ken Harvey, who signed for $2.75 million a year.

He expects that fans will be saying by the end of the year, "My gosh, where did they get this guy? Where did he come from?"

The answer: He came from Arizona, where he didn't fit into Buddy Ryan's plans. Turner thinks he's a perfect fit for the Lynn defense.

But there are a couple of major glitches. Defensive tackle Tim Johnson severely pulled a hamstring Monday and may miss most of camp. The defensive line is one of the team's thinnest positions, and Johnson will be replaced by journeyman Jeff Faulkner.

Then there are the likely holdouts by the two top draft picks, quarterback Heath Shuler and offensive lineman Tre Johnson. They became the only potential holdouts after quarterback Gus Frerotte, the seventh-round pick, signed yesterday for a $125,000 salary cap number.

The Shuler holdout could quickly become a problem because a quarterback -- especially a rookie -- can't afford to miss much time.

It also doesn't help that he wants to top the $2.6 million per year paid to the top player drafted, Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Dan Wilkinson, even though he's the third pick. Shuler thinks there should be a premium for a quarterback.

But owner Jack Kent Cooke isn't likely to go for that argument. Two years ago, Desmond Howard, the fourth player selected, tried to get more money than the third player picked because he was the Heisman Trophy winner. After missing all of camp, he wound up taking less.

Despite those problems, Turner wants to stress the positive as he tries to mold this team.

"We've got a lot of people with a lot of different backgrounds, and our ability to get that group working together as a cohesive group is something we're going to stress early," Turner said.

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