Agreement With Orakpo Sweetens Smooth Start

Redskins' Top Pick Will Join Team's Laid-Back Setting

Familiarity with Coach Jim Zorn's drills and overall system has Clinton Portis and the Redskins feeling ahead of where they were a year ago.
Familiarity with Coach Jim Zorn's drills and overall system has Clinton Portis and the Redskins feeling ahead of where they were a year ago. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 31, 2009

The Washington Redskins opened their first day of training camp with plenty of energy and enthusiasm, but they were still minus one key player. They won't have that problem on Day Two. The team came to contractual terms late Thursday night with their lone holdout, first-round draft pick Brian Orakpo.

Orakpo, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end from the University of Texas, agreed to a five-year deal, according to his agent, Ben Dogra, though financial terms were not immediately available. Orakpo was expected to report to camp Friday morning, Dogra said.

The late-night signing brought a quick conclusion to one of the biggest early concerns of this year's training camp and means with two practices down and 32 scheduled practices remaining, Coach Jim Zorn has one less thing to worry about -- not that he expressed much apprehension on camp's opening day.

Zorn bounced across the practice field, from group to group and player to player, offering quiet words of advice and direction when necessary. Gone was the barking, the marching orders, the emotional yells.

"He's more laid-back this year," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "I don't know if it has to do with guys doing the right thing, or if he just wants to enjoy this."

Zorn said the explanation is simple. After just one day, already the second-year coach can tell the team opening this year's camp is different than from his first group a year ago. Zorn recalls opening camp last July and screaming "15 or 20 times" for his players to improve their effort.

Not this year, though.

"I didn't have to say, 'Get back! Go harder! Pick the tempo up! Use a different snap count!' All of those things have been understood," Zorn said. "So all of the little things we'd been coaching hard to try to get last year and even in minicamp and OTAs, we're getting from Day One. So maybe it looks like I'm laid-back, but I'm watching intently for anything I can make a correction to." --

Though many questions loom -- aside from Orakpo's signing -- the first day of practices offered few answers. Zorn and another of his key players did try to offer one, though. After an offseason of reported -- but disputed -- discord, both Zorn and running back Clinton Portis said multiple times they enter this season with a positive relationship.

At times last season, the two butted heads, and during the offseason, Internet reports suggested the rift had deepened.

"That was last year. This year we have a positive attitude," Portis said. "Me and him are on the same page. Our communication is a lot better. What happened last year, that's done and over with."

Zorn learned many things from last season are best left buried in media guides and locked away as painful memories. Reflecting on last year's camp, he said the biggest problem wasn't necessarily effort, rather familiarity. That was the biggest difference Thursday, he said.


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