Should he have a dazzling training camp and preseason, Washington Redskins rookie cornerback Champ Bailey could play a few snaps at wide receiver as early as the first regular season game, Coach Norv Turner said this afternoon.
Other story lines to be written during training camp: How quickly will quarterback Brad Johnson adapt to Turner's offense, given his offseason knee surgery and his unfamiliarity with Redskins receivers? Who will emerge as the starting left tackle, the crucial position the team has patched together for years? Will Rodney Peete's veteran savvy or Casey Weldon's long-ball accuracy make for a better backup quarterback?
Questions abound as the Redskins opened training camp this afternoon at Frostburg State Uni versity. Through Wednesday, Turner will work with rookies and veterans returning from injuries. That's more than half the squad -- 50 players.
The full complement hits the field Thursday, when work begins in earnest on a season that almost certainly must produce a playoff appearance if Turner is to have a future under the club's new owner, Daniel M. Snyder. Turner acknowledged feeling more pressure than usual on the eve of camp.
"I think everyone who is with the Redskins organization has something to prove," Turner said. "I certainly feel like I do. I think a number of our players, who either played a limited amount because of injury or didn't play as well as they think they can, have something to prove."
Turner's top priority during the next three days will be getting Johnson comfortably installed at quarterback. Acquired by trade from the Minnesota Vikings in February, Johnson underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee in May after it started swelling during April's minicamp. He missed the June minicamp as a result, which means he has had little work with his new corps of receivers, led by Michael Westbrook, who had neck surgery in January.
"Brad had seven really good days in our minicamp, but he needs a lot of repetition -- whether it be mental repetition or physical repetition," Turner said. "He needs to get comfortable with the offense."
Andy Heck, a 10-year veteran tackle released by the Chicago Bears, won't report to camp until Wednesday. By then, Turner will have seen a lot of holdovers Joe Patton and Shar Pourdanesh, both of whom underwent surgery in the offseason for an injured shoulder and groin, respectively.
"It's going to be a great competition that goes through training camp," Turner said. "It gives us a chance to come away with two good left tackles."
All three may remain on the roster if they're among the team's 10 best offensive linemen.
Turner apparently has grown more bullish about using Bailey as a two-way player. After Bailey was drafted, Turner indicated Bailey's chances of playing both offense and defense as a rookie were remote, given the complexity of an NFL cornerback's job.
Today, Turner said: "If there were a couple routes obviously you put him in, and he runs real fast, on a couple of deep routes, he could not only maybe make a big play but complement and help one of the other receivers."
Turner said he will line up Bailey alongside Brian Mitchell on kickoff returns during training camp and the preseason, but likely would rely on James Thrash for that role during the regular season because of Thrash's blocking ability.
"You put Champ in there [with Mitchell], and I think they're both going to want the ball," Turner said.
As Turner spoke, players trickled on to campus and got to work unloading their sports cars and sports utility vehicles, hauling suitcases, video-game players, portable DVD players and VCRs into spartan dorm rooms -- their home until Aug. 19.
Johnson's unpacking went slowly because of the number of fans wanting autographs or a glimpse at the belongings inside his black Cadillac SUV.
Johnson said he felt fully recovered and ready to play. "I spent all spring learning the system and had all summer rehabbing and working out," he said. "I'm excited to play football again."
Safety Jamel Williams, a third-year player, arrived Saturday night to avoid the crush. Like Johnson, he came ready to play.
"Nobody wants to go through what we went through last year," Williams said of the team's 0-7 start. "We've got a new owner. Everybody's getting refocused. I think everybody's ready to get it done this year, because we ended on a positive note last year by winning those games at the end of the season."