Jim Zorn Is 'Ready to Go' Entering His Second Year With the Redskins

"I absolutely know our players this year because we've had a year together. So I'm going to be better because I've been around our players a lot and know what to expect. They know me better and know what to expect from me, too," said Redskins Coach Jim Zorn, who begins his second season at the helm. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 26, 2009; 11:01 PM

During his first full offseason as a head coach, Jim Zorn spent some time in Seattle. He visited Harper's Ferry, W.Va. He read Jeffrey Archer's latest book, plus some Daniel Silva and a recent tome on Lincoln's ideology.

All the while, his thoughts never drifted too far from the task before him: returning the Washington Redskins to prominence.

"Even when I'm on vacation, I'm paying attention to what we need to be doing as an organization," Zorn said. "So by this point, I'm completely ready to go."

Zorn opens his second training camp on Thursday, concluding an offseason of drama and commencing a preseason of cautious optimism mixed with lingering uncertainty.

It's different this time around, Zorn said. A year ago, a rookie head coach began his first camp with only six quick months of preparation. No nametags were necessary, but last year's camp opened with a slow learning curve.

"As we were installing everything, as we were getting to know each other, I was really teaching the offensive coaches our offense still, as well as the players," Zorn said. "This year, there's a different type of preparation. We know more of what to expect on offense. We're not learning vocabulary. We're not learning terminology. We're not learning the system or the tempo. We know what we're dealing with." Zorn is counting on that familiarity to make a difference this season.

Players will receive their playbooks this week before their first workout, but the next four weeks will be more about repetition than education.

Compared with last year, the 2009 playbook isn't exactly wrinkle-free, but the differences are subtle. Because he better understands his personnel and his coaching staff, Zorn said he knows what deserves more attention and what should be de-emphasized.

Zorn insisted he's undeterred by the offseason headlines: He was sad to see tackle Jon Jansen go, he said; it's unfortunate Jason Campbell had to see his job security get bandied about like a shuttlecock; and he finds it odd Clinton Portis vs. Jim Zorn grew into such a soap opera.

"The media said, 'Oh, my gosh, there's a problem,' " Zorn said of his relationship with his star running back. "I don't think we ever had any problem at all. We're communicating better than ever."

Of Campbell, Zorn said he has zero worries about lingering effects from an offseason in which the Redskins chased after Jay Cutler and then attempted to a work a deal that could've brought rookie Mark Sanchez to town. Training camp will not be a test of Campbell's commitment to the team or his level of confidence, the coach says.

"I think I've already seen what I'd want to see from Jason. I think I saw it in [organized team activities], in the minicamps, in the way he's handled himself," Zorn said. "I'm not going to sit back and analyze it every day of camp. He's already done very well. He was out here yesterday working just as hard as he was during the 'drama.' For him, it doesn't turn on or off. He said to himself: 'This is the way it is. Life isn't always fair, but I'm going to handle it. I'm going to keep working.' "

While outsiders might turn an eye to Redskins Park to assess Zorn's own job security -- Can he capitalize on owner Daniel Snyder's heavy offseason investment and roster additions to return the Redskins to the playoffs after a one-year absence? -- the second-year head coach said all he can do is put his head down and make a few key preseason decisions that will help the club come Week 1.

For starters, he's looking for a right tackle to replace Jansen, he wants more depth at the wide receiver spot and he's curious to see if newcomer Albert Haynesworth, a two-time Pro Bowler at defensive tackle, will make the players around him better.

"There isn't just one battle," Zorn said. "There's several battles."

It's all a decision-making process that he's been looking forward to for months. Beginning this week, Zorn said he'll be at Redskins Park every morning at 6 a.m. and won't leave until after 11 each night. It's not necessarily a heavier workload than the coach's rookie season, just a process with which he's more familiar and comfortable.

"I think my enthusiasm is the same," he said. "My approach may be different, just from the standpoint of having a year behind us. I absolutely know our players this year because we've had a year together. So I'm going to be better because I've been around our players a lot and know what to expect. They know me better and know what to expect from me, too.

"I've got a little bit different perspective having had one year -- the comfort of knowing where we've been and where we are today, I can see the development of our team, and I know we're going in the right direction."

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