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Assistant coach Bill Khayat (right) goes over kick coverage during the Washington Redskins' minicamp yesterday in Ashburn.
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BY ADAM HIMMELSBACH
ASHBURN--At NFL minicamps there are moments, many of them fleeting, when any team can look like the biggest thing since the goalpost.
Crisp passes are caught. Coaches give instruction and pump their fists. Players smile and joke and bubble with energy.
For the Washington Redskins, there were several such moments yesterday, as they held their first mandatory practice of the season. As footballs soared below the cloudy skies and hope seemed unending, last season's cringe-worthy 5-11 record seemed as distant as a good punt.
"You want to finish out the summer on a strong note, especially minicamp," third-year quarterback Jason Campbell said. "You want to go out on a high note as a team, come back for training camp feeling good about what we've accomplished. It's going to be an exciting season."
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder watched the practice from the sideline, where he sat in a padded armchair that was not meant for the outdoors.
On the field, Campbell's passes were strong and accurate and they drew praise from his teammates. But that is quite common for this time of year.
Elsewhere, it was clear that while some things changed, much has stayed the same. Assistant head coach Al Saunders hooted and hollered when nice catches were made.
"Turn outside! Technique!" Saunders yelled. "Protect the football from the outside defender."
Colorful tight end Chris Cooley, known for his unusual practice ensembles, jogged around in burgundy shorts that were far tighter and shorter than everyone else's.
And one familiar face, er, voice cackled above all others.
Cornerback Fred Smoot, who re-signed with the Redskins after spending the last two years with the Minnesota Vikings, was as talkative as ever.
During one drill in which defensive backs had to race to grab orange cones, musical-chairs style, Smoot scooped up a cone and yelled toward a younger player who had decided not to challenge him.
"He just knows to go the opposite way of me!" Smoot said.
Running back Clinton Portis, who underwent shoulder surgery during the offseason and was expected to miss minicamp, was something of a surprise participant. Gibbs said Portis took some anti-inflammatory medicine and felt healthy enough to practice.
After doing side work with wide receiver Santana Moss, Portis took part in a few light drills.