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Redskins' Workouts Under Scrutiny From League, Union

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 3, 2005

The Washington Redskins are being investigated by the NFL and the NFL Players Association for possible violations during offseason practices after video of some drills was made available on the club's Web site. Representatives from the NFL and NFLPA said they are looking into whether the Redskins conducted practices that were too physical and in which offensive and defensive linemen engaged one another in live contact, which is prohibited.

The practices, known as organized team activities, or OTAs, are voluntary and can last no longer than two hours. Coaches are allowed to put players through drills without the use of pads, although helmets are permitted. Each team can use 14 OTA days during the offseason and no more than four per week. According to the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players, "contact work (e.g. 'live' blocking, tackling, pass rushing, bump-and-run), is expressly prohibited." The CBA also details that no "live contact" drills between offensive and defensive linemen are permitted.

Coach Joe Gibbs, who confirmed that the team is being investigated, said he has used these same drills since his original tenure with the team and, while admitting he uses one-on-one drills between linemen, does not believe he violated any rules.

"What I think happened there," Gibbs said, "was there was some shots on the Web site. It was being narrated -- it wasn't being narrated by a coach or anything -- and I think there was probably some comments in there about competitive drill work, and I think there was enough there that several people wanted to see our film. We'll have to wait and see what they say."

Carl Francis, director of communication for the NFLPA, said the issue came to light when NFLPA employees saw the video on the team's Web site and there is no timetable for a determination to be made. According to Francis, any one-on-one drills between linemen are prohibited. Investigations into these matters are not unusual, although they usually arise from player complaints. Generally, one or two teams per year are penalized. Last month, the Philadelphia Eagles lost a week of OTAs.

No Redskins have complained to the union, according to multiple sources.

"Do you know how we caught them?" NFL Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw told the Associated Press. "We saw it on their Web site."

Teams can be fined for OTA infractions and stripped of future OTA days; the staff places a premium on this offseason work and has not altered drills since the investigation began, Gibbs said.

The video in question, filmed about two weeks ago and part of the team's recent "Redskins Unfiltered" initiative, is no longer available on Redskins.com, Gibbs said. The media are prohibited from viewing the bulk of virtually all offseason and regular practices.

Gibbs said he was unaware that one-on-one drills were explicitly prohibited, and the coaches use them to work on balance and pass-rushing techniques. "Our understanding was you could do balance on one-on-one stuff."

Gibbs said he works closely with veterans to determine if they are pushing the limits, at times backing off from certain drills at their urging. The team has suffered no injuries through the first three weeks of OTAs.

Offensive lineman Ray Brown, one of the players' union representatives and a 20-year veteran, said he was unsure if these drills constitute "live contact" but does not feel they are too physical. "We're football players," Brown said. "We go practice and do what the coaches ask, and if players thought there was some type of violation, I think guys would speak up. I wouldn't think anything would come of it, to tell you the truth."

Veteran offensive lineman Chris Samuels said that some players new to the organization have commented on the intensity of these OTAs but believed everything was within the rules. Linemen "are locking up and just working on our hand placement and technique," Samuels said, "but we're not like finishing guys and driving guys to the ground or anything like that."

Redskins Notes: The Redskins will eventually have to make cuts in order to create salary cap space to sign their draft picks, but Gibbs said that no such moves are imminent. Linebacker Mike Barrow, who has not played since being signed last year because of knee problems, is expected to be cleared to participate in the June 17-19 minicamp, Gibbs said. Barrow, who many believe will be let go because of his age, health and potential $1.74-million cap savings, is expected to report here soon to get medical clearance. Return specialist Chad Morton, another potential cap casualty, still is not cleared to return to the field following season-ending knee surgery. . . .

Gibbs said the Redskins are still pursuing free agent cornerback R.W. McQuarters, who is likely to complete his visits to other NFL teams this week. McQuarters has visited the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions as well as the Redskins. . . . Safety Sean Taylor, who has skipped the Redskins' offseason program, still has not contacted Gibbs or confirmed that he will participate in the mandatory minicamp. . . .

Gibbs announced that players will report for training camp July 31, with practice beginning the next day.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company