Players to watch in training camp:
--Quarterback Patrick Ramsey: No starter is more under the gun entering training camp than the fourth-year quarterback. That's not because of how Ramsey played last year -- he was competent for the last 7 1/2 games, especially compared to how horrid former Jacksonville star Mark Brunell was the first 8 1/2 games.
Coach Joe Gibbs says he believes that Ramsey will lead Washington back to the promised land of the playoffs and championships, but he didn't draft the 26-year-old from Tulane and three first-day picks is a sky-high price to pay for a player whom you don't expect to be on the field sooner rather than later.
With his contract expiring after the 2006 season, it won't cost much to cut Ramsey next offseason if he doesn't play well in 2005. And if that's not enough for Ramsey to handle, he is adjusting to two new starting wideouts, Santana Moss and David Patten, each of whom is much faster but smaller than predecessors Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner.
That decade culminated with a career-high 177 stops for the 2003 Giants, prompting the Redskins to sign him as a replacement for the disappointing Jeremiah Trotter.
But Barrow developed tendinitis in his knee on the eve of training camp and never got on the field last season. He remained out of action throughout the offseason. Having turned 35 and with a $1.74 million salary, Barrow seemed a sure post-June 1 victim.
However yet another specialist finally discovered the painful scar tissue in Barrow's knee in June. With that resolved, Barrow said he felt great.
If he performs like his old self, the lineup's biggest hole will be filled. If he can't, the Redskins will be reduced to hoping that a veteran outside backer or an untested player can fill the void caused by the loss of top tackler Antonio Pierce to the Giants.
--Linebacker LaVar Arrington: Another linebacker with a balky knee, Arrington was the lifeblood of the Redskins from 2001-2003 under coaches Marty Schottenheimer and Steve Spurrier, making the Pro Bowl each year and often serving as a virtual locker-room spokesman.
But with a $6.5 million contract dispute still lingering from 2003, Arrington had a knee scoped after two games last year. When he was on the verge of returning to practice, he slipped while running. His comeback was postponed and when it occurred, it lasted for just two games as backup before he was shut down for the season.
Feeling like a spare part on the NFL's third-ranked defense and frustrated after the knee had to be scoped again this spring, Arrington lashed out at the Redskins for not appreciating him. He has apparently patched things up privately, but the rift won't truly heal until Arrington is on the field playing to his accustomed level and until the contract dispute is finally settled.
--Free safety Sean Taylor: The player whom Gibbs claimed was the most researched draft pick in NFL history has been nothing but trouble off the field since the Redskins took him fifth overall in 2004.
Taylor has changed agents twice, needed three criminal attorneys, been fined for walking out of the NFL's mandatory rookie symposium, skipped the entire offseason workout program at Redskin Park while spurning the coaches' attempts to contact him and been arrested (and later cleared) for driving under the influence and for assault with a firearm and simple battery (trial is set for Sept. 12).
If he wasn't such a dynamic player -- assistant head coach Gregg Williams said he has never coached a better athlete -- the Redskins would certainly be contemplating getting rid of Taylor. But they're hoping that he shows up to camp on time -- as his current attorney said he expects -- doesn't let his legal woes affect his play and succeeds in having his court date postponed until the off-season.
Last summer, Smith had a shot to make the team when he tore a triceps in the last preseason game. He spent the year on injured reserve and fell behind Brandon Barnes, who got into 12 games as a rookie in 2004, mostly on special teams.
But Smith has progressed so fast this offseason that he was one of just two players singled out by coach Joe Gibbs in the press conference that wrapped up June's minicamp and the entire offseason.
"Physically, Clif's so much better than he was," said linebackers coach Dale Lindsey. "And mentally, he has done extremely well. Clif was in all the meetings last year and he was here working this offseason even when we weren't. He just has to show us that he can stay healthy."
--LaVar Arrington has hired a new attorney in hopes of resolving his 19-month-old contract dispute with the Redskins before training camp opens.
"I was brought in to give LaVar a fresh set of eyes," attorney Steve Brown said. "LaVar would like to get a resolution of this before training camp starts and after reviewing the documents, I expect that we can come to a win-win resolution and LaVar can restore the relationships with the Redskins that are so important to him."
Although Redskins owner Dan Snyder and coach Joe Gibbs are both on extended vacations that aren't due to be completed until just before camp begins at Redskin Park, Brown is hopeful that a timely meeting can be arranged to settle the dispute. NFL Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw would also be expected to participate.
The dispute, which was going to be heard by an arbitrator today before being postponed last week at the request of Brown, Arrington and the NFLPA, stems from the eight-year, $68 million contract extension that the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker signed in December 2003. He and agent Carl Poston say that the Redskins owe him another $6.5 million in signing bonus for redoing his deal. The Redskins vehemently disagree and say that Poston didn't carefully review the contract before signing it.
Arrington missed most of last season following arthroscopic knee surgery. When he needed a follow-up procedure in April, he blasted the Redskins for not promptly announcing the news. After meeting with Gibbs the next day, Arrington turned around and ripped the media for reporting his anger. He hasn't talked to reporters since.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Fullback Nehemiah Broughton, the Redskins' seventh-round draft pick, has agreed to a three-year contract that includes a $42,250 signing bonus. Three rookies remain unsigned: first-rounders Carlos Rogers and Jason Campbell and fourth-rounder Manuel White. Receiver Rod Gardner is still expected to be cut when the Redskins need his $2.1 million in salary cap space to sign Rogers and Campbell.