It will cost the Redskins about $150,000 to hold three minicamps this spring, after booking some 140 roundtrip air flights, renting more than 100 hotel rooms and ordering enough hamburgers to increase McDonald's profits for the year.
As far as Coach Joe Gibbs is concerned, the benefits the camps produce justify the time and expense each require.
Without his first minicamp in April, he says the Redskins might not have concentrated on selecting offensive linemen in the draft or pursued the acquistion of running backs Joe Washington and Terry Metcalf. But that camp confirmed to the staff that the team needed depth along the line and improved quickness at halfback so Wilbur Jackson could return to his more natural fullback position. The resulting changes since April have been dramatic.
"Look at all the things that have happened since I was hired," Gibbs said. "These camps really can show us what we need. This is a different team now, especially on offense, because of what we saw in that first camp.
"Without the camps, I don't know where we would be when training camp opened in July. Everything we do in these minicamps saves us time when July comes. We've already introduced our basic offense and defense to everyone and both the players and coaches have had a chance to get to know each other a little.
"We're really playing catch up with the teams we play, since they basically have returning staffs and we don't. Everything we do is new while they don't have to start from scratch."
These camps are unique in that the players don't receive additional salary for showing up. All their transportation, lodging and food is paid for by the club, but their time is free, a rarity in these days of high-powered contract bargaining.
The NFL Players Association collective bargaining agreement with the league allows each team to hold one mandatory minicamp per year. If players fail to show up for that camp, they can be fined. Another camp is authorized by the agreement, but only on a voluntary basis. And any club with a new coach, such as the Redskins have in Gibbs, can hold yet a third camp, again voluntary.
Front office personnel book the air flights for players who live out of town. Those athletes stay, two to a room, in a hotel near Redskin Park and are transported to practices in cars and vans, which also pick them up at the airport. Each of the 83 players at this camp receives meal money -- $5 for breakfast, $6 for lunch and $17 for dinner, unless the club provides the food instead.
This week, the Redskins have served hamburgers, and a do-it-yourself fixings bar, at lunch. At last month's camp, lunch was fried chicken.
No pads or tackling are allowed, although the linemen do undergo some light contact. Mostly, the practices concentrate on reviewing the playbook and sharpening fundamentals. Each workout is filmed, and the movies later are broken down in lengthy meetings.
"I think these camps are so important that I wouldn't mind seeing them cut back on the length of training camp just to make sure they don't eliminate these," Gibbs said. "But I bet they come up in the next contract bargaining session."
Linebacker Brad Busek, who underwent back surgery in April, showed up at Redskin Park yesterday to visit with his teammates. Dusek has not begun rehabilitation yet, but said he thinks he will be able to report for training camp in July. But no one is certain when he will begin playing full-time again.