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THE BALTIMORE SUN

ASHBURN, Va. - Irving Fryar has seen something similar before.

Back when he was catching passes at Nebraska, Fryar said, those teams had expectations and pressure to win every game.

But that was at Nebraska. How about in his 16 seasons since as a professional? "No, not on a professional level," Fryar said.

"I've never been on a team this good or had expectations this high. It is good to be a part of this. If we are to follow through this year and do what everybody is expecting us to do, it will be a great accomplishment."

Make no mistake about it, the Redskins have but one goal this season - win the Super Bowl. It has been what owner Daniel Snyder has set out to do since buying the team in 1999.

Snyder is expected to spend more than $100 million in salaries and bonuses this year after loading up on big-name free agents during the off-season.

The Redskins picked up two future Hall of Famers, cornerback Deion Sanders and defensive end Bruce Smith, hard-hitting safety Mark Carrier, former 1,000-yard rusher Adrian Murrell and Jeff George, the cannon-arm quarterback for insurance in case Brad Johnson goes down. The team also used the Nos. 2 and 3 picks in the draft to get linebacker LaVar Arrington and offensive tackle Chris Samuels.

The off-season spending spree has raised the expectation level so high that anything other than a Super Bowl victory probably would be viewed as failure.

Redskins coach Norv Turner knows this. He fielded questions all through training camp about the expectations surrounding his team.

His standard line is that he wants the team to improve from week to week. By the end of the season, the Redskins should be able to compete for a championship.

"I think we've gotten a lot done this training camp," Turner said. "We've had great focus from our players. Coaches have done a great job preparing our players. Now, it's week-to-week preparation. As I told our coaches and our team, the teams that survive this thing are the teams that continue to improve and the teams that handle adversity the best.'

Which relates to the underlying problem that could be the Redskins' undoing this season - team chemistry. With so many new faces, how will they fit in with the old Redskins on and off the field?

On the field, it is not a problem offensively. Outside of Samuels replacing Andy Heck at left tackle, the starting offense is basically the same as last season's, which finished second in the league.

Otherwise, center Cory Raymer is out for at least the first four games with two partially torn ligaments in his knee. Mark Fischer replaces him.

But quarterback Johnson is back for the final season of his contract, and he will have 1,000-yard receivers Albert Connell and Michael Westbrook to throw to, along with Pro Bowl running back Stephen Davis.

Defensively is where the new and old must mesh. So far, they have. The first-string defense, sporting three different starters from last season, did not allow a touchdown in the first half of its last three preseason games.

Smith replaced Marco Coleman, who shifted to right end. Sam Shade moved to strong safety for Carrier. And Sanders replaced Darrell Green, who will come in as a nickel back against three-wide-receiver formations.

"I'm not surprised," Carrier said of the defense's success. "Granted, it has only been preseason, so we haven't put a full game together. The true test will come in the next couple of weeks, especially in the first game, when teams will have film of our personnel to break us down.

"Deion and I have both been in other places. That is a big reason why our transition has been so smooth. We have seen a lot of things before, and we know how to play it."

Some questioned whether the flamboyant Sanders, coming from the rival Dallas Cowboys, would be a distraction in the locker room. But he has been helpful in bringing along Arrington and some of the younger defensive backs.

Sanders spent many days after practice running sprints with Arrington, trying to get the late-reporting rookie in shape. Once Arrington replaces Greg Jones at strong-side linebacker, the Redskins will have four different starters from last season's 30th-ranked group.

Just as important as the new faces is the arrival of defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes. Rhodes was fired after one season as head coach in Green Bay. He has installed a more aggressive defense that seems to be a good fit for the Redskins' personnel.

"I'm not a guy to force-feed," Rhodes said. "When you start trying to force-feed things on people, you are making a mistake. You really have to play toward the players' strength. As a defensive staff, we constantly talk about the strengths of our players. Coleman said: "We got playmakers. Bruce Smith, Mark Carrier, Deion Sanders are all big playmakers. We just added big plays to our defense."

And that may be what gets the Redskins out of the second round of the playoffs, where their season ended last year in a 14-13 loss at Tampa Bay.

They have made the moves to stay with the Buccaneers and Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams and can only hope to execute well enough come playoff time to have this season again end in Tampa, but this time at the site of Super Bowl XXXV.

"I was on a team my senior year [at Nebraska]," Fryar said. "We were expected to win the whole thing. We almost did. It went down to one play. So I have been part of an experience like this. We didn't finish the race like we wanted to. But hopefully we can overcome that hurdle this year and go ahead and finish that race here with the Redskins."

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