Another Year, Another Dose of Jurgensen's Optimism on Redskins

By George Solomon
Sunday, July 30, 2006

On the eve of the Redskins' opening training camp in Ashburn, their venerable radio and TV broadcaster, Sonny Jurgensen, hesitated when told he's been involved with the team for 42 years.

"That would be a long time," said Jurgensen, 71. He and the legendary Sammy Baugh, 92, are the two Redskins quarterbacks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jurgensen's longevity is a "tribute to medical science," said retired wide receiver Bobby Mitchell, who was witness to Jurgensen's partiality to the good life as a young man. "No one ever thought Sonny Jurgensen would live to be 72." Mitchell could have added that -- like the Steelers' reckless star quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger -- Jurgensen sometimes exceeded life's speed limit. But Sonny, as his insurance agents would confirm, preferred fast cars to motorcycles.

But I digress, aware that I've already lost every reader under the age of 50. Let's return to the current state of the Redskins, who begin practice tomorrow. This is a Redskins team coming off a 10-6 year and a win over Tampa Bay in the postseason, with expectations heightened by a half-dozen promising free agent acquisitions, including wide receivers Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd, safety Adam Archuleta and defensive end Andre Carter.

Also, the addition of Al Saunders, a high-octane offensive coordinator from Kansas City, to Coach-President Joe Gibbs's staff at considerable cost ($2 million a year, I hear), has to help -- prompting a number of smart NFL observers to rate the Redskins among the elite teams.

"There's a good chance they could go 12-4 or 11-5," said Jurgensen, a perennial optimist. "They've made a lot of improvements on offense and defense. But the key to their season is whether or not [quarterback] Mark Brunell stays healthy. They'll play Jason Campbell a lot in the preseason. I like him; he's an accurate passer who is very athletic. But Brunell has to be healthy."

In the nearly five decades he's been in the NFL, including five seasons with the Eagles starting in 1957, Jurgensen said the biggest change in the game has been its evolution from the field to the sideline. A "coach's" game is how he described it.

"The coaches choreograph everything," Jurgensen said. "They call all the plays, make the decisions. But I still think the quarterback knows what's the best play to call, not the coach on the sideline.

"You'd be in the huddle, see for yourself who wants the ball, who doesn't, ask Charley Taylor, 'Can you beat this guy?' That's having the feel of the game in your hands."

Opining on Bonds

The appearance of Barry Bonds, along with the Alfonso Soriano soap opera and the Nats' six-game homestand sweep, made for a lively week of baseball in Washington.

Bonds, of course, was the main attraction. Few athletes have ever generated such hostility in every opposing ballpark.

For nearly five years, intense coverage of steroid use in baseball, with Bonds the focus, has dominated the off-the-field news. Drama of the daily beat never stops: Will Bonds be indicted by the current grand jury? Will his personal trainer testify or go back to jail? What will the George Mitchell-led investigation uncover? What's on Barry's mind, as he sits on 722 home runs, only 33 from all-time home run king Hank Aaron's record 755?

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