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At Mini-Camp, Zorn Set to Establish Identity


Last Monday, Jim Zorn was all smiles as he introduced his first draft class at Redskins Park.

Then he was asked if players would see a different side of him at the club's three-day mini-camp this weekend.

Zorn put a stern look on his face.

"Oh, you mean this look? The raised eyebrow look?" he said with a playful smile.

The remark drew laughter from the audience, of course.

But there may be truth in the notion that not even Zorn knows for sure what kind of head coach he is just yet.

Is he a strict disciplinarian?

Is he a players coach?

As Zorn prepares for his first interaction with 90-plus players--veterans and rookies alike--he might just learn as much about himself as he does about the team.

Zorn is expected to address the entire team for the first time on Friday morning, before the team's first practice.

"I think I am more of an encourager," Zorn told TV's Larry Michael this week. "People have said I have a high level of intensity. I'm not really a yeller and I don't talk down to people. I like to teach."

He added: "I do have a loud voice, but I've been a quarterback in the National Football League and you have to scream over 90,000 fans. So I know how to raise my voice."

Zorn was a surprise head coaching hire in mid-February. Originally hired as offensive coordinator, the Redskins eventually turned to him to serve as head coach.

Since then, Zorn said he has spent "hours and hours" with assistant coaches planning for the spring mini-camp.

He has an abbreviated offensive playbook designed to gradually introduce players to the new offense. The playbook will expand as the team heads into OTA practices next week.

"[Mini-camp] will be the first opportunity for the position coaches to actually show their stuff," Zorn said. "It will be the first opportunity for the players to respond to what we're teaching. All those things wrap together."

Zorn, who played quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks from 1976-84 and served as quarterbacks coach there from 2001-07, expects to stay involved with quarterbacks during mini-camp practice.

He will work along-side offensive assistant Chris Meidt in instructing Jason Campbell, Todd Collins and the other young QBs.

"Chris is a very enthusiastic coach," Zorn said. "As we work in individual drills, I'll be with the quarterbacks, but as we work in team drills, I'll be looking more at the overall team. I'll let Chris pull back with the quarterbacks and work with them."

New offensive coordinator Sherman Smith and assistant head coach-running backs coach Stump Mitchell will also make their debut as Redskins coaches.

Zorn wants all of his position coaches to take the lead in teaching players, veterans and rookies alike, during practices.

He says their judgment of players will "at a premium."

"There may be some good players who may not be quite ready, but we see the talent in them," he said. "There may be some players where, it may be they didn't get it in the classroom yet and they need more reps. It's up to us as coaches to get the best out of them.

"Really what we're doing is trying to bring the natural talent out of these athletes. We're not trying to make them play in a tight, confined manner. We're trying to make them play efficiently on the football field and elevate their techniques.

"I'm thinking of a defensive end working with his hands and being able to get around [the edge] with speed, or a double-move, or a change of pace. As coaches, we're there to perfect [technique], basically."

Zorn has brought a new energy and enthusiasm to Redskins Park.

Now, with a full house of football players, the Redskins' identity under Zorn is about to take shape.

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