Steve Suter stood in disbelief in the Redskins huddle during rookie camp practice Friday afternoon. Joe Gibbs--his favorite NFL coach as a kid growing up in Manchester, Md.--was coaching him.
"Am I watching this on TV, or is he really talking to me in person?" Suter said afterwards.
Suter is one of 51 rookies who were invited to try out for the team at the Redskins' three-day rookie camp this weekend. Along with 12 undrafted free-agent signees, six draft picks and two first-year players, Suter is hoping to make a good impression during the workouts.
"I'm the underdog here, I know that," said Suter, a self-described Redskins fan since age 2. "There's a lot of people fighting for very few spots left on the roster. It's a tough road, we know that. So we just come out here and do what you can with the reps you get and hopefully somebody sees and likes what you're doing."
Gibbs met with the players Thursday night and offered encouraging stories of past undrafted free agents who eventually helped the team to Super Bowl victories, such as tackle Joe Jacoby and center Jeff Bostic.
"To me, that's one of the most exciting things about football," Gibbs said. "You get a group like this. Out of all the research and everything we do, we're supposed to have these guys down. There are going to be surprises. I would have to guess that there will be some free agents that make our football team."
Chris Kelley, a defensive back from the University of Maryland, is another player trying out.
"You're wearing an NFL team and playing for the Redskins," Kelley said. "That's the only thing different. You're still 11-on-11. The hard part was getting here. The easy part is going out there and playing and showing the coaches your talent and trying to impress them as much as you can. When it comes down to it, they're the ones that make the final decision."
For Gibbs, the three days are an important step toward building the team for next season.
"For everything we've put into it," Gibbs said, "there will still be some surprises."