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Redskins Put a Wrap On Training Camp

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The grinding regimen of two-a-day practices reached its merciful end on Thursday in baking heat and stultifying humidity.

The termination of training camp might as well be a holiday wherever NFL teams train. The early-morning wakeup call, the taping of ankles, the hurried breakfast, the bus, the practice at 8:30 a.m. and again in the afternoon, the meetings and study of tape and the desperate attempts to grab a little sleep, all soon fade into memory.

The Redskins stage a walk-through on Friday morning--they call it a mock game--in preparation for their preseason meeting on Saturday night at FedExField with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Practices and meetings continue but not with the unrelenting pace of camp.

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Jason Campbell and Clinton Portis (AP Photo)

"From my experience, this was about a six on scale of one to 10, 10 being the hardest," defensive end Andre Carter said. "Those morning practices, well, we pushed through it. Another year complete."

Not that all the business is done. The Redskins still have 80 players and must cut their roster to 53 before they open the season Sept. 13 against the New York Giants. There are three preseason games to play, with starters getting most of their work a week hence against the New England Patriots.

All downhill from here? Not exactly. The Redskins escaped major injuries in the three weeks they've been pounding on each other but much remains before they are ready to take on the Giants, the defending NFC East champions.

In his second season as coach, Jim Zorn got more out of training camp than in his initial go-round.

"I'm really pleased," he said. "I think we have accomplished a lot more that we could have last year because everything was such a start-up. This year the core of everything has been the same. We pushed a lot offensively to increase the scheme of things. Our defense became more seasoned. I think we did what we had to do."

Sensing a team about to hit the wall, Zorn canceled the Wednesday night meetings after two solid practices in typical Washington, D.C., summer weather.

"They were dragging so I gave them the evening off. I don't think they had the energy for anything but a good meal and some rest," Zorn said.

With the breaking of camp, players who stayed at the team hotel can move back to their homes or into their new digs and begin keeping more regular hours.

"We've been here until 10 almost every night," said No. 1 pick Brian Orakpo. "There's a lot of work that goes into this."


Orakpo would be one of the standouts of camp. His work at defensive end in pass-rushing drills showed his natural flair for coming off the edge and pressuring the quarterback. His battles with left tackle Chris Samuels, a six-time Pro Bowl pick, provided some hope that the Redskins can post more than the paltry 24 sacks they had a year ago.

His efforts at strong-side linebacker yielded a little less. His comfort level is not the same as at defensive end, which he played at the University of Texas. In utilizing Orakpo at two positions, the Redskins are asking a lot when the adjustments at this level can be frightening.

Other camp studs:

Defensive end Jeremy Jarmon. Picked in the third round of the supplemental draft, he has also taken snaps inside and worked on special teams. "He seems very mature," defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. "He's played well. He'll be here." The Redskins like his intelligence and maturity.

Receiver Marko Mitchell. The seventh-round pick from Nevada has the size (6-4, 218 pounds) the Redskins like and heated up the competition for the fifth receiver spot in the last week. He made a terrific catch in Thursday's morning practice against cornerback Carlos Rogers that, Zorn said, "sparked everybody."

Mitchell had an earlier dust-up with DeAngelo Hall and held his ground (he also held Hall, which led to the pushing and shoving). Mitchell and Keith Eloi are battling for that final receiver spot, with Eloi getting extra points because he can return punts.

Clinton Portis loved the way Mitchell performed and said, "Carlos is in trouble." Rogers is, of course, not in trouble.

Tight end Fred Davis. Despite two fumbles against the Baltimore Ravens, the second-year player looks like a good fit for sets when the Redskins want a pair of tight ends on the field. Chris Cooley remains the starter.

Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. He makes his playing debut against the Steelers. He was a force in practice and the two-time All Pro, signed as a free agent, should enable the Redskins to get more out of every player on the defensive line. He will be a double-team magnet.

Wide receiver Malcolm Kelly. Healthy most of the time, though occasionally nagged by a hamstring, he is probably neck and neck with Devin Thomas in the jockeying for the second receiver spot. After a disappointing rookie year marred by knee problems, he has put in the time and effort to improve. "I've been catching about 50 balls a day after practice since camp began," Kelly said. This is another big body (6-4, 227) that the Redskins would love to have contributing.

So camp ends. The rest of the preseason looms. It carries its own challenges. The defense needs to show it can get off the field, the special teams must beef up coverage and determine whether Shaun Suisham comes back as the kicker or whether Dave Rayner takes his job, and the offense must extend drives and score points.

The 23-0 bruising by the Baltimore Ravens is all the Redskins can show for the work they've done.

"This team is only as good as its last game," Kelly said. "And our last game, we didn't show up."


Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and Redskins.com to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to Redskins.com for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on Redskins Nation, airing nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, both in the Washington, D.C. area.

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