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Redskins Park buzz is genuine

July 30, 2006 5:19 am

'TWAS THE DAY before training camp, and all through Redskins Park not a creature was quiet, not even Sean Taylor. The jerseys were hung in the players' lockers with care, in hopes that the start of authentic practices soon would be there.

It's that time again, and doesn't it feel good? It's training camp eve for the Washington Redskins, who will kick off their training session at the team's headquarters in Ashburn tomorrow afternoon. As it is for the other 31 NFL teams, Washington's training camp is the first step of a six-month journey.

The beauty of this time of the year is that every team thinks it has what it takes to contend for a title. At least for now, that assessment is accurate, because everybody starts undefeated.

In reality, there are a dozen or so teams with a viable opportunity to compete deep into the winter. The Redskins are without question one of those teams, built well and equipped with enough weapons.

Thanks largely to another spending spree by owner Daniel Snyder, Washington strengthened every visible weakness on its roster. The most manifest enhancements came on offense, where the Redskins ranked 11th in the league last season.

Having added one of the league's elite masterminds to call plays and three new pass-catchers, the once-bored scoreboard operator at FedEx Field might be busier this season.

Per their usual spring activities, the Redskins added what could end up being a half-dozen new starters. Unlike in years past, however, there won't be any need for the "Hello, My Name Is" tags at Redskins Park this week. There was no overhaul or major turnover--just minor alterations to an already capable and formidable roster.

The most pivotal hiring may ultimately prove to be that of offensive coordinator Al Saunders, a 24-year coaching veteran who passed up head coaching opportunities to join the Redskins. Known as one of the NFL's great offensive masterminds, the innovative Saunders will mean to Washington's offense what Gregg Williams does to its defense: everything.

Last season with the Kansas City Chiefs, Saunders coached his offense to the league's top ranking. In the last five years, no team has amassed more yards or tallied more points than the Chiefs under Saunders' tutelage.

Saunders is just a small reason why Redskins executives and fans are so eager for the start of the 2006 campaign. On paper, Washington looks as well-built and talented as any franchise in football--not just this year but in the past several years. Unfortunately, paper doesn't help a team win football games.

With the start of camp just a day away, and many picking the Redskins to be one of the final teams standing in the NFC, there's a great deal of pressure on Washington to succeed. Unlike in years past, not getting deep into the playoffs this season would be seen as a failed effort. It's an effort that begins tomorrow, when the Redskins take to the practice fields for the first time this summer.

GRANT PAULSEN is a 17-year-old sportswriter who lives in King George County. He hosts a talk show each Saturday on XM radio. He can be reached at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, or by fax at 373-8455.





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