By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 27, 2010; D01
INDIANAPOLIS -- In the seven weeks since he was introduced as the Washington Redskins' head coach, Mike Shanahan has been publicly silent, saying nothing about his new team, his offseason plans or a Washington roster that's ripe for change. Finally settled into his new job, Shanahan met with reporters Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine and provided hints both big and small about the team's new direction.
For starters, Shanahan said he expects Jason Campbell to continue as quarterback and said the organization intends to tender an offer to Campbell, who will likely become a restricted free agent next week.
"I've got a big admiration for Jason and how he's handled himself through some very tough situations with a beat-up offensive line and the way he's handled himself as a quarterback," Shanahan said.
By tendering an offer, if Campbell eventually signs with another organization, the Redskins would receive compensation in the form of future draft picks. Tendering a contract, however, is not the same as negotiating an extension, which means there's still uncertainty surrounding Campbell's future.
"I understand it's a process and I'm just going to let Joel [Segal, his agent] handle everything," Campbell said in a telephone interview after Shanahan's news conference. "I know I've given my all to the organization, I've never blamed anyone when things have been tough, and I just keep moving on and pressing forward. I just hope it will all work out. I think it will work out."
If Campbell does, in fact, return to the Redskins' huddle next year, he'll have a different voice in his ear -- and it won't be Shanahan's.
Shanahan, who carved his reputation as one of the game's top offensive minds, will cede play-calling duties to his son, Kyle Shanahan, the team's new offensive coordinator. Kyle Shanahan called plays last season for the Houston Texans, which boasted the league's fourth-ranked offense.
"I'm heavily involved in offense and defense," Mike Shanahan said. "I think one of the reasons why I've stayed in this profession is I love the game. I love X's and O's. I'll always be involved on both sides of the ball. But I'll also delegate a lot of responsibility. And to people who prove they can handle it, I'm going to let them handle it."
There will be noticeable change on the defensive side, as well, but Shanahan stopped short of declaring the Redskins would change to a 3-4 defensive front, a major shift in philosophy that calls for three defensive linemen and four linebackers and would require several players to learn new roles.
"We've got the principles of a three-man front and a four-man front. I'm calling it the Washington Redskins' defense," Shanahan said. "We'll see at the end of the day where our players are and what they can do. We'll run the defense that gives us the best chance to win."
Shanahan did not reveal any of the team's plans for April's draft or free agency, which begins next Friday. In fact, he had little to say even about specific players who are already under contract.
Asked about running back Clinton Portis, Shanahan answered by discussing the responsibilities facing every player.
"Let's not talk about Clinton. Let's talk about everybody with the Washington Redskins. Let's not focus on one guy," Shanahan said. "I want everybody to be as good a football player as they can be. What it takes is a commitment to get better every day. I want all the guys on our football team to make a commitment in the offseason to work and work extremely hard. That's the only way we're going to get better as a team."
There are early indications that those offseason demands could be more taxing than with what veteran players are familiar. Former coach Jim Zorn held only one minicamp in each of his two seasons as head coach; Shanahan is planning to hold three.
Under league rules, each team can have one mandatory minicamp and 14 official workouts, known as organized training activities, or OTAs. Teams with new head coaches can have two additional voluntary minicamps for veterans, and Shanahan will hold his first one before the draft, on April 16-18.
In addition, Shanahan's offseason conditioning program will begin March 15. Though technically voluntary, Shanahan and the new coaching staff will expect to see every player present at Redskins Park.
"I think it's very important for them to understand that the team comes first," Shanahan said. "To work together and do the little things the right way, it's a long process, the offseason program. It's not easy. A lot of hard work involved. I think it's very important to show your teammates exactly how hard you work and how dedicated you are to the program."
Shanahan has overhauled the strength and conditioning staff, hiring Malcolm Blacken, formerly with the Detroit Lions and before that an assistant in Washington, and Chad Englehart, who was with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett with the UFL's Florida franchise last year, to assist in that area. Shanahan hopes dedication and discipline in the offseason will carry over into his first season.
"It'll be a challenge for us to get this organization back to where it's been," he said. "We understand how competitive the NFC East is and how well these teams have been playing. So that's our goal, to get us back to where we've been."