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OTAs to Conclude; Mini-Camp is Next

Redskins Park will be quiet early this week as players get a brief respite from off-season workouts. The team will host its final OTA practice on Thursday, then begin a three-day, full-squad mini-camp next weekend.

With OTA sessions winding down, head coach Joe Gibbs said the team has had a productive offseason.

"I couldn't have asked more from our guys this offseason," Gibbs said. "Our attendance has been great and we had only one situation there [with Sean Taylor absent]. I know I keep saying it over and over again, but we've probably had one of the best attended offseason programs in the league. Our guys have worked extremely hard."

There's always the risk of injuries during off-season workouts--last year, a number of players were slowed by sore shoulders--but the team has emerged from OTAs relatively unscathed by the injury bug, Gibbs said.

H-back Chris Cooley sustained a hamstring injury last Wednesday during a practice, but it was not a serious setback for the second-year player.

"Until the Chris Cooley injury, our guys had been pretty much injury free and had real good work all offseason," Gibbs said.

The mini-camp will be the first time coaches get a look at the six Redskins allocated to NFL Europe. The team sent cornerbacks James Bethea and Rufus Brown, linebacker Joe Tuipala and wide receiver Nathan Black, center Ben Nowland and running back Dahrran Diedrick overseas in February to participate in the league and gain valuable playing time.

NFL Europe players will have a leg up on most rookies and first-year players on the team's roster. They have a roster exemption during training camp, meaning that they can survive the first of two rounds of preseason cuts prior to the regular season.

Coaches and scouts, including Louis Riddick and Don Warren, have spent the last few weeks watching tape and evaluating players in NFL Europe, including the Redskins' allotment of players.

Said Gibbs: "You have to admire players who go over there. They go through a full season, then come right back over here and dive into this. We'll be getting a break for them pretty quick. The league supports [NFL Europe] and we're doing our part. We think we have some good young players who played over there and want to make a run at making the team."

Gibbs pointed to defensive lineman Demetric Evans, who played in NFL Europe in 2004 and then earned a roster spot on the Redskins thanks to a strong training camp. Evans ended up playing in 12 games, starting eight, and recording 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks for the Redskins.

"He's a good example," Gibbs said. "He came back and pretty much [played] a full year of football. He did a terrific job for us and made it here. Those are some of the great stories that you have-the guys who come out of nowhere and make the football team. Those are the ones who excite you.

"You know it's going to happen every year. You just don't know who it's going to be. You are kind of anxious to see them get started. As soon as we get the pads on during the season, that's where some of them step up."

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