By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 19, 2006
The moment of vindication came, ironically, in their worst defeat. The Washington Redskins were eliminated from the playoffs by eventual NFC champion Seattle Seahawks, but six months later, with the official start of training camp more than six full weeks away, members of the Redskins' defensive line see that loss to Seattle not as an end, but a beginning.
Phillip Daniels remembered it. So did Renaldo Wynn, who was on the sideline with a broken right forearm.
From nearly the start of that game, the members of the Redskins defensive line did not believe league MVP Shaun Alexander wanted to confront them. The words, first articulated in the form of big hits early, were spoken by defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, who in the trenches taunted the Seattle running back.
"Shaun doesn't want to get hit," said Griffin, who was a teammate of Alexander's at Alabama.
With 4 minutes 38 seconds left in the first quarter, Alexander took a handoff and cut back into the teeth of the defense. Griffin knocked him out of the game with a concussion.
"I remember that," Daniels said. "They know when you get hit a few times by our defense. They thought we were crazy. But they left that game respecting us. They respect us now."
Minicamps are in general designed for coaches to take extended looks at young players trying to make their teams and to ensure players have reached or are nearing the appropriate level of conditioning. But the established members of the Redskins' defensive line also say they are highly motivated.
The Redskins' three-day camp -- the last organized activity until training camp begins July 31 -- ended yesterday, and it was marked by the steady progression of second-year quarterback Jason Campbell, the veteran familiarity of Todd Collins, the promise of young draftees such as defensive tackles Kedric Golston and Anthony Montgomery, and the indoctrination of free agents such as Adam Archuleta and Kenny Wright into the Redskins' system.
At the same time, the defensive linemen said they see now as the time to begin the type of trust-building they believe will benefit them months from now, when the leaves die, the temperature drops, and the value of having spent this past weekend working in 95-degree heat will be measured only by their playoff position.
With the exception of Joe Salave'a, who did not attend the three-day camp because of a family illness, each player has begun to get an initial feel for defensive end Andre Carter, who signed in March as a free agent.
"Speed, speed, speed," is how Daniels described Carter, whom Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams referred to as a "genetic freak." At 6 feet 4 and 265 pounds, Carter is big but lithe. His body fat was measured at 4 percent. A natural defensive end that spent last season in San Francisco at linebacker, Carter spent the last three days familiarizing himself once more with the basics in footwork, but impressed Daniels with his combination of power and speed. The two will anchor each end position.
"We're establishing the bond," Carter said. "So much of the offseason workout has been all-volunteer, but everyone is here. That represents that we all want to be here. This is a brotherhood."
As an example, Wynn referred to a fishing trip in March that was organized by Daniels as an attempt to build connections to his teammates. Daniels, Griffin, Wynn, backup defensive ends Demetric Evans and Cedric Killings, and even former Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington attended the two-day trip to Panama City, Fla.
Daniels does not operate a boat himself, preferring to use a charter service. He said the weather was terrible, about 40 degrees, so inclement that on the first day the boat couldn't go out. But ultimately, the group of anglers -- Wynn doesn't fish but was along for the company -- caught about 200 pounds of grouper and amberjack.
"That kind of camaraderie goes hand-in-hand," Daniels said. "Hopefully, we can build on things like that fishing trip. It's good to get to know the guys that you work with outside these walls. You get to know them a little bit as people."
Wynn, Griffin, Daniels, Salave'a, and the newly acquired Carter no longer have to fear making the roster as many of the 94 players brought into camp this weekend do, nor do they believe that June is too early a time to build the kind of chemistry and trust all championship teams must have.
"That's the kind of stuff you need to get each other together," Wynn said. "There's a trust factor involved. What Phil did was great. He did all the work and we just had to say if we were in or not.
"We need to know that we can rely on each other, and that we can be there for each other. It starts in the offseason. If you don't have that, then you just look at each other as a bunch of guys you work with. It has to go beyond that. That all starts now."