Old players are quick studies at Redskins minicamp

Donovan McNabb takes a snap from Kory Lichtensteiger as the Redskins wrap up their first minicamp under Coach Mike Shanahan.
Donovan McNabb takes a snap from Kory Lichtensteiger as the Redskins wrap up their first minicamp under Coach Mike Shanahan. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 19, 2010

While there's a different environment, unfamiliar uniform colors and new faces all around, the feeling is a slightly familiar one for Donovan McNabb, the Washington Redskins' newly acquired quarterback.

"I feel like a freshman just getting into college," he said Sunday, following the final practice of the team's first minicamp.

The team's predraft minicamp was in many ways like the first week back to school for the Redskins, complete with a new curriculum, new teachers and new classmates.

"It was good to finally get out there, get a little work going," said offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. "[We're] teaching everyone a new offense, so each day it got better. The first day everyone was a little rusty; they're just trying to know what they're doing. The more they knew what they're doing each day, we got a little better at technique as it went. I thought today was our best day."

In Coach Mike Shanahan's first minicamp since taking over as head coach in January, his staff began installing new offensive and defensive schemes, all the while making notes on individual performances. What they saw over the weekend will go a long way to determining some players' futures with the team and might force some last-minute tweaks on the team's draft board.

Though the minicamp was voluntary, Shanahan wanted to see commitment from his players, which is why 75 were in attendance and only three were missing: quarterback Jason Campbell, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and linebacker Rocky McIntosh.

Running back Clinton Portis, criticized by past coaches for his offseason conditioning habits, says that won't be a problem for him this year. In fact, Portis says he feels more committed than he has in recent years under former coach Jim Zorn.

"I actually do. It's a difference when you say commitment and you want someone to buy into a system that you really don't believe in," Portis said. "I think having Coach Shanahan here, you just believe in whatever he say. If he tell you, 'I think we can jump off the roof, that we going to land safe.' It's like, 'All right, [expletive] it, let's jump.' "

Shanahan denied reports that the Redskins are interested in trading Haynesworth, though few around the league would be surprised if Haynesworth is shopped before this week's draft. Either way, missing the first minicamp means Haynesworth and McIntosh are both a step behind their teammates in learning the new defense.

Coaches say the Redskins will switch to schemes that rely on both three-man and four-man fronts.

"They've got a lot to learn," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said of the absent players. "There's a lot more to this defense -- there's a lot of things. The longer you stay away, you've got a lot of catching up to do. Being around the guys that are here and knowing how conscientious they are, I think they'll be fine once we get them here and get them up to speed. I don't think it will be a big learning process."

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