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'Fresh Start' For Redskins As Workouts Kick Off


There's something in the air and it's not just the smell of fresh paint.

Redskins players returned to a spruced-up building to begin the off-season training program on Monday. A rearranged weight room, under the auspices of new strength and conditioning coaches, filled up early with the holdovers from last year's roster and the new folks signed as free agents.

Lifting, stretching, getting acquainted and reacquainted. London Fletcher looked lean and tight. Malcolm Kelly wore his usual smile. Jason Campbell, Albert Haynesworth, Clinton Portis, Byron Westbrook came through the front doors and headed down the steps toward the locker room. Nice to see familiar faces again.

Only a couple of coaches remain from the previous staff, the offensive and defensive schemes are changing, as will the players' roles in them. Change is never easy, though it is fact of life in the NFL. Nor is it unexpected when a team turns a 2-2 start into a 4-12 disaster filled with injuries and a mishmash of misadventures.

"It's a fresh start, a fresh change," said safety Reed Doughty. "It's good for everybody in the building."

Especially when so many no longer are. Ten players departed two weeks ago, among them former starters (Chris Samuels, Randy Thomas, Fred Smoot, Antwaan Randle El, Cornelius Griffin). They've moved on and so have the Redskins, in several ways.

Head coach Mike Shanahan sets a high bar as he tells the players the way things need to be. But it is the same bar for all. He establishes standards and makes them clear. You will hear the term "accountability" and many of its variants often and that's not new. Those words, however, now possess concrete meaning.

"I think it's just personal responsibility and fairness," said Doughty. "You want things to be fair and equal. If some person is late, then they're late and they deal with the consequences. You've got even consequences and even expectations and I think that's fair and I'm looking forward to that."

Ah, the end of the era of the privileged few. All are now equal in the eyes of the law.

Think that's not important in the locker room? Hard workers respect other hard workers. They expect other hard workers. When one player gets a pass after shirking his duties or loafing, others wonder what is acceptable. The mood shifts and sours. A coach like Shanahan will always want his players asking, "What more can I do?" He won't tolerate the opposite: "What can I get away with?"

That was a point Phillip Daniels raised the day after last season's dismal end. Bruce Allen had already replaced Vinny Cerrato in the front office, Jim Zorn was being dismissed after posting a 12-20 record over two years and the locker room simmered with the discontent born of scattershot discipline and failure. Daniels spoke of focus, dedication, attention to detail. He exhibits those traits and expects them of others. That's one reason the Redskins resigned him and want him back for his 15th NFL season.

Four more games, Daniels said, could have been won just with the appropriate degrees of preparation and attentiveness. The Redskins, in essence, might have been 8-8 despite the injuries and other sideshows they either created or endured.

"The potential of what the Redskins could be" was what lured nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu. A veteran of playoff teams in Baltimore and Carolina, he intends to play for another right here.

"With the coaching staff Mike Shanahan put together and the talent in the locker room, that stood out for me," Kemoeatu said. "We have the potential to be really successful this season and next season and in the future and I want to be part of it."

So it was on day one. Redskins Park reverberated again with the sounds of football, the friendly banter and dreams of better times. The faint fumes of paint won't last long. It should be replaced by the sweet smell of success.

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

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