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Friday, July 25, 2008

COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF

41

Days until the Giants host the Redskins on Sept. 4

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TODAY'S SCHEDULE

When:8:30 a.m. practice open to the public; 2 p.m. closed practice.

Where: Redskins Park, Ashburn.

Admission, Parking: Free.

Updates:703-726-7411.

FRESH FACE: J.T. MAPU

Rookie DT J.T. Mapu wouldn't take back a minute of his journey to the NFL, even if he doesn't land permanently on the Washington Redskins' roster.

Mapu starred briefly at Tennessee but went undrafted after a two-year religious mission interrupted his college career.

"It wasn't as hard a decision as people thought it might be," he said. "I made up my mind as a child I was going to do it."

Mapu grew up in Kahuku, Hawaii -- population 2,097 -- in a house across the street from the ocean. By the time he reached high school, all the Pacific-10 schools were pursuing him. Mapu instead chose Tennessee and became a starter by his sophomore year, finishing with 26 tackles and two sacks for the 10-3 Volunteers in the 2003-04 season. That's when he stopped playing football.

College teammates asked if he was making the right move. Mapu never wavered, following six older siblings who have all gone on missions. His brother Daniel moved to Chicago. Jimmy moved to Japan. His sister Tile went to Little Rock. Mapu relocated to Houston, where he preached Mormon scripture in places ranging from street corners to rooms crowded with 300 people. He lived in a single-room apartment with as many as six roommates.

"Regardless," he said, "it's something I will always look back and be grateful for."

Time away from football sapped his strength, decreased his endurance and blurred his field vision. He started in only five games during the two seasons after his return to Tennessee, finishing with 65 career tackles, 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Mapu signed with the Redskins May 15 and was then released. He re-signed after Alex Buzbee suffered a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury on the first day of camp.

"I feel like things could have been a lot easier had I stayed and not taken that [mission] trip, but this is a decision I made and, hey, I'm here," Mapu said. "I've just got to make the best out of it."

ZORN WATCH

Coach Jim Zorn unveiled "the bag drill" yesterday, his latest practice addition, and quarterbacks found themselves under siege.

Each quarterback took turns receiving the snap, dropping back and completing a short pass. The added twist: Zorn, offensive coordinator Sherman Smith and teammates moved toward them with blocking pads and hurled them at each quarterback as he threw. The drill was designed to prepare the quarterbacks to adjust and perform as the pocket collapses and bodies collide.

"It's all we can simulate, when it comes to the intensity of a game," Zorn said.

The one rule of Zorn's bag drill is no shots to the head. Jason Campbell broke the rule during the morning practice, pummeling Todd Collins in the face. On Campbell's next turn, Collins answered with a mighty blow -- "some retaliation, perfectly legal in that drill," Zorn said. According to certain quarterbacks, Zorn also leveled his share of shots.

"I think Coach Zorn also likes roughing us up a little bit," Colt Brennan said. "And having an excuse to do it."

QUOTABLE

"I am a trouper and am going to keep fighting through it."

WR Devin Thomas,

on his hamstring injury

INJURY REPORT

WR Devin Thomas strained his right hamstring as he attempted to make a diving catch during a scrimmage in the morning practice. He is expected to miss 10-14 days. . . . S LaRon Landry strained his left hamstring and sat out. . . . DE Chris Wilson strained his left calf and sat out the afternoon practice.

NEXT UP

Hall of Fame

Game Redskins vs.

Indianapolis Colts

8 p.m., Aug. 3,

Canton, Ohio


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