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Redskins owner Daniel Snyder says the changes have team pointed 'in the right direction'

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 16, 2010; D02

Three of the most visible and influential members of the Washington Redskins organization -- the general manager, head coach and quarterback -- have all changed in recent months, and the man at the top of it all says the turnover was needed to change the culture surrounding a listless franchise.

"It was necessary," Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said. "We were 4-12 and going in the wrong direction. All of the changes are to get us going in the right direction. Obviously, the pedigree and the success of the people that I've brought in, you could tell we're going in the right direction."

Snyder met briefly with reporters Saturday following a community function in Northeast Washington and said he's excited about the new direction the organization has taken in recent months. While optimism and hope are common themes around Redskins Park during the offseason, Snyder said this year, "it feels different."

"We had two rough years. This feels really like we're going in the right direction," Snyder said. "Really excited about it. I'm having a lot of fun. These guys are incredible and really fun to work with."

Snyder was on hand Saturday morning for the unveiling of a newly renovated youth football field at the Edgewood Recreation Center. It's the 25th field the team's charitable foundation has helped to renovate. Following the dedication ceremony, he met briefly with reporters and touched on the myriad topics that have surfaced since he last spoke publicly in March.

Fans can add Snyder's name to the list of people at Redskins Park who'd prefer that defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth opted to show up for the team's voluntary minicamps and offseason training activities (OTAs). Haynesworth has skipped two minicamps, choosing instead to work out near his home in Nashville. The team begins its first OTA Monday morning, and Haynesworth isn't expected to attend.

"I'm disappointed he's not here. Absolutely," Snyder said. "We're expecting our players to lead by example, and we're expecting our players to understand that they're Redskins and they need to be here."

But Snyder is pleased with some of the other faces he's seen around the facility. Snyder attended quarterback Donovan McNabb's introductory news conference last month but Saturday marked the first time he spoke publicly about his new quarterback, who was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia last month.

"Donovan, you talk about on the field -- it's off-the-field with me," Snyder said. "It's his leadership ability that stands out with me."

McNabb's current contract is set to expire following the upcoming season, but the team is expected to begin negotiations for an extension soon. Asked whether he felt the team would be able to extend McNabb's contract by the start of training camp, Snyder said, "We'll be okay."

Many of the questions and answers focused on the team's new direction. Saying "the past is the past, we're excited about the future now," Snyder clearly feels the franchise has turned a corner and will fare better under the new regime's stewardship.

"It's exciting. You can feel the energy, the excitement out of [Coach] Mike [Shanahan] and [General Manager] Bruce [Allen] and now adding Donovan really gets us going," he said. "We have a lot of confidence -- we've restored our confidence."

The team has made three playoff appearances in the 11 seasons since Snyder bought the franchise but none since Joe Gibbs left following the 2007 season. Snyder hired Jim Zorn to replace Gibbs, and the team posted a combined 12-20 record the past two seasons.

Given the state of the team by the end of last season, a change of culture was needed. Snyder replaced Vinny Cerrato with Allen as general manager, ousted Zorn to hire Shanahan and oversaw the trade for McNabb.

"I think the biggest change is there's new people now," he said. "We had the great Joe Gibbs for quite some time. I feel like we got close a few times. I feel good about those days. And then we had a couple of bad years. Now we got to get those behind us and move on, and that's what we're doing."

Since Allen was hired in December, there's been talk that Snyder might not be as active in the day-to-day operations of the team. At news conferences, he's sat in the back of the auditorium. Players say they don't speak with Snyder as often as before. And some at Redskins Park say the owner doesn't visit as regularly as he has in years past. Snyder, however, doesn't seem to put much credence to the theory that he's less involved than before.

"I think the approach has always been a little bit more hands-off than probably written about or reported about," he said.

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