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Players Ready to Pick Up Intensity

From mini-camps, strength and conditioning sessions and practices, the Redskins' offseason has taken on more of a methodical approach this year. Players come in daily for workouts and spend time working with coaches, learning play calls and developing bonds with teammates.

Joe Gibbs' structured offseason has made an impression on all of the players.

"Everything about this offseason has been very methodical," safety Matt Bowen said. "Coach Gibbs has put in place a great plan. You can see it in how he goes about the mini-camps and practices. You can see it in the off-season running and weight training programs. It's kind of like a master plan he's created to help get us ready for training camp."

The Redskins are gearing up for their third and final mini-camp this weekend. The camp begins on Friday with meetings and a practice and wraps up Sunday afternoon. It doesn't stop there. The team will continue with OTAs--practice sessions referred to as Organized Team Activities--for another two weeks.

Gibbs expects the intensity level to pick up a notch at this weekend's training camp. He has scheduled closed practices all three days.

"This is a real critical time for us," Gibbs said. "We have about three weeks of real hard work. We go right from the mini-camps into OTAs, so this will be a real intense time before we give the players a long break until training camp.

"There's a lot we have to cover. We need to continue to polish a lot of the [schemes]. And since we have a new staff, we're working a lot of new schemes in. When we get to training camp, we're not going to have a great deal of time to work on all of the specialty items like the two-minute, short yardage and goal-line drills. So this is a real critical time for us."

Gibbs said he is satisfied with the team's attitude and work ethic the last few weeks.

"I couldn't ask for much more as far as hard work and guys being dedicated," he said. "It's hard when you have a new coaching staff and a lot of new players. But I think we're starting to develop a little team camaraderie, which is good."

Throughout the offseason, Gibbs has emphasized that there will be open competitions at most positions. Some of these competitions could start to take shape at this weekend's mini-camp and in the weeks that follow.

At quarterback, third-year pro Patrick Ramsey will compete with off-season pickup Mark Brunell for the starting job. Ramsey is expected to participate fully in this weekend's mini-camp now that his right foot has healed from a bone bruise last year.

"My foot feels great," Ramsey said. "I've been going full speed for a couple of weeks now and I've finished my conditioning tests."

Safety is another position that could be among the team's more intriguing competitions in training camp. Rookie draft pick Sean Taylor and veterans Bowen and Ifeanyi Ohatele are competing for jobs in the Redskins' secondary.

Said Ohalete: "I'm looking at it as three people competing for two positions. So far, we've all had good mini-camps and good practices, so we're all going after it hard."

Meantime, the team's rookies will also be looking to pick up the pace this weekend. Since returning to the team in mid-May, the draft picks and undrafted free agents have been a daily presence at Redskins Park. This mini-camp will be a great opportunity for rookies to show coaches how much they have retained in the five weeks since the NFL Draft.

"We've been [at Redskins Park] all week so we've been working out and we're ready," said tight end Chris Cooley, the Redskins' third-round draft pick last April. "But it'll be good to get into another camp and get things going."

Cornerback Walt Harris (left knee) and tight end Robert Royal (left knee) are expected to sit out this weekend's mini-camp. A host of other players, including Chris Samuels (right shoulder), Darnerien McCants (left shoulder), Jermaine Haley (left shoulder) and Brandon Noble (left knee), will be limited in practice.

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