Washington Redskin Linebacker Pete Wysocki donned his football helmet for yesterday's first day of a three-day minicamp at Redskin Park and commented that it felt a little tight.

"It just goes to show you. When you think you have a starting job, your head swells," Wysocki said.

Later, the devil-may-care special teams player said his helmet felt tight only because of new pads inside. But with the exit of longtime area favorite Chris Hanburger, the left-outside linebacker's job is open. Wysocki, for one, is going after it.

"I came here with the same attitude as always. You never know what will happen-injuries, anything," Wysocki said. "I realize this is a heck of an opportunity for me. And, yes, it would bother me if I didn't get the job. But you don't inherit anything in football. You have to earn it. I plan to work and try to earn it."

Wysocki, a 6-foot-1, 224-pound four-year veteran, has done most of his head-knocking on the suicide squads. Ironically, he and Dallas Hickman, the only players remaining from the special teams of four years ago, are competing for the same spot.

"That's a coincidence. Of course, if I do earn the spot, I know I might not play on the special teams anymore," Wysocki said. "I'd miss it, but I won't have earned the starting spot by running downfield on special teams. I'll have done it by not making mistakes and doing what I'm supposed to do on the line of scrimmage."

Only a few yards behind Wysocki, another player will be knocking heads trying to fill some big shoes. Mark Murphy, a three-year veteran from Colgate, appears to have first crack at the starting free-safety spot in place of the recently released Jake Scott.

"I hope to get a shot at it. I knew they (the Redskins) had made a commitment to Jake last year," the 6-4, 210-pound Murphy said. "He didn't work with me much at all, but I learned a lot from him, just watching him in practice and in games. I don't consider this job mine by any means. You have to work and earn it.

"This minicamp is good for mental preparation for training camp in Carlisle (Pa.). I get a chance to get my defensive signals down and get familiar with patterns. Playing with Kenny (Houston) really has helped me a lot, too. It would be great to start with him."

Redskins Coach Jack Pardee said he was pleased with the first day of the camp, particularly with the performance of the running backs.

"For this time of the year, they looked good. We had a pretty good session. We worked under a different format, working a half side at a time," Pardee said."This way, more players can get individualized attention. The vets here need a little work to get the repetition down."

Wysocki and Murphy looked at home during dropback drills in a seven-on-seven passing situation. Quarterbacks Joe Theismann and Kim McQuilken looked farily sharp and receiver Ricky Thompson made several fine receptions.

"We're putting in a lot in these few days," Pardee said. "Then we'll polish it up when we get to camp. It's good for a Brad Dusek to work in this, because he can get used to calling the signal Chris isn't here to do that anymore.

"Donnie Harris (strong safety) has improved tremendously. Wysocki and the fellows have been working with the weights and came here in good condition. You can tell what they've been doing."

Murphy was encouraged by the fact that he's the only free safety in camp so far. According to Pardee, several other defensive backs will be in camp because we "do need some help there."

"Of course, we like what we have not, but we've signed a couple of free agents," Pardee said.

"I guess it's a vote of confidence of sorts," Murphy said with a smile. "At least I'd like to think so, unless they went out and got a Cliff Harris (Dallas All-Pro safety) or somebody. I feel comfortable out there. I've worked on my strength and my quickness. I don't plan to put any added pressure on myself, just do my best." CAPTION: Picture, Pete Wysocki adjusts helmet as Redskins start minicap. By James M. Thresher - The Washington Post