Last month's $800 million sale of the Washington Redskins signaled the passage of one era in team history. Yesterday at minicamp, a stopwatch signaled the passage of another.
For the first time in 17 years, cornerback Darrell Green wasn't the fastest man on the squad in the 40-yard dash. Wide receiver Albert Connell took over the spot, with cornerbacks Champ Bailey, the rookie from Georgia, and Darryl Pounds also eclipsing Green, 39, by running the distance in the 4.3-second range.
Redskins officials conduct tests of players' speed and agility before training camp each year. The tests are closed to the media and the results are kept confidential.
But Green had held the title as the Redskins' fastest man for so long, there was no attempt to hide yesterday's unexpected, if inevitable, turn of events. Even Green took the development in stride, joking afterward, "You ever hear of [radio host] Paul Harvey and `The Rest of the Story?' Well, stick around. I can't tell you a date. But there's a rest of the story."
All kidding aside, the brisk times on the field underscored a point about the 1999 Redskins. They are faster, younger and, Coach Norv Turner hopes, more durable than they were last year, when they posted a 6-10 record and missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
"We've been a well conditioned team," Turner said. "The guys that are running fast are younger. We're younger, we're faster, so I think our endurance will be better."
The tests were followed by a 90-minute practice to open an eight-day minicamp designed to give players a chance to absorb the playbook before training camp begins July 25.
Quarterback Brad Johnson, who will be on crutches another few weeks following arthroscopic surgery on his knee May 4, threw a few balls on the sideline and listened as Turner worked with the offense.
Backups Rodney Peete and Casey Weldon took most of the snaps. It was Peete's first day working with the full squad, and aspects of the offense came readily, given his familiarity with the system while in Dallas.
Turner predicted a spirited battle between Peete and Weldon for the number two job.
"Everyone likes to talk about Rodney as a backup," Turner said, "but he and Casey are going to have a good competition. Casey Weldon has been here a year, he knows the system, he was extremely accurate in the first minicamp. He hasn't played a lot, but he has been around."
Peete, 32, acquired in a trade with Philadelphia, said he looked forward to getting his chance with the team.
"You look around the league, and there are very few teams that have one guy all 16 games," Peete said. "You have to have at least a couple guys that can step in and play. Look at Brad's situation: Had he stayed healthy, there would have been no Randall [Cunningham] up there [in Minnesota].
"I think that in this day and age, when the game is so intense there are going to be injuries to that position, if you fall off too much it could mean the difference in you going to the playoffs or not. So hopefully, that's one of the reasons they brought me here. If something happens to Brad or I have to step in and play, we won't miss a beat."
Peete had told Eagles officials he wanted to leave the team after it became clear their interest in him was declining. "I knew it was my time to move on," he said.
While Redskins officials are pleased with the moves they have made to upgrade the defense -- acquiring Bailey and safety Sam Shade, among them -- they would still like to strengthen the defensive end position. They have their eye on San Diego's Marco Coleman, but no deal is imminent.
Redskins Notes: G Tre Johnson (knee), G Tim Alexander (quadriceps muscle), DE Anthony Cook (knee), LB Antwaune Ponds (knee) and G Brad Badger (strained leg muscle) did not practice.