Washington Redskins wide receiver Rod Gardner placed a burgundy duffel bag in the passenger seat of his black Mercedes Benz SL 500 yesterday before leaving Redskins Park until April. The bag was filled with new sweatpants, new shorts, new socks, new cleats.
Following yesterday's season-ending meeting, almost every Redskin took used paraphernalia home after emptying out his locker room stall. But there was a reason behind Gardner's eccentricity.
"I don't need the old stuff. The old stuff they can throw in the garbage can," explained Gardner, who finished with 1,006 receiving yards, 11th best in the NFC. "I go in there and get all the new stuff. I look at it as a fresh start."
Next season, there will be a lot new for the Redskins, who have 15 restricted or unrestricted free agents. Coach Steve Spurrier will return following a 7-9 record in his first NFL season. But changes will range from a new training camp location to new players at key positions.
Spurrier said he wants to add some speed to his offense. The Redskins plan to acquire two wide receivers and two guards after devoting most of their resources last offseason to upgrading the defense.
"Most of our payroll was spent on defense," Spurrier said. "There is going to be a little bit more focus on strengthening our offense with two or three players."
Center Larry Moore and left tackle Chris Samuels said they don't believe a major overhaul of the offensive line is necessary because it played better in the second half of the season. "We just need time to practice together," Moore said.
Spurrier said the team intends to upgrade mostly through the draft in April but also plans to sign a few free agents. The representative for Buffalo Bills wide receiver Peerless Price already has said his client will strongly consider signing with the Redskins as a free agent. Spurrier plans to have an increased role this offseason in making personnel decisions with owner Daniel Snyder, vice president of football operations Joe Mendes and director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato.
"Last year I basically came in, and if I don't know a lot, I don't pretend that I know a lot," Spurrier said. "Some coaches, I guess, bluff their way through about knowing a little bit about everything, but I'm not very good at that. So I sort of sat back and let everyone do their job. Hopefully now I've learned a little bit that I can have some input in really every phase of our team."
Spurrier said there was "no question" that he brought in too many of his former University of Florida players this season, and indicated that he and his assistants will try to ensure that they have a more disciplined team next season.
"I had a losing year," Spurrier said. "We all lost more than we won. We did like the players. I would say I did not have a very good year. I would hope most of our players would say almost the same thing. We didn't get it done this year. We thought we had a team that could make the playoffs, and we didn't do it."
Before Gardner drove off, the wideout told running back Stephen Davis, walking in the parking lot, to expect a call on the cell phone. The franchise's third all-time leading rusher is expected to be released within weeks. Davis is scheduled to earn $7.5 million next season, making him an albatross for a team trying to navigate the salary cap to sign players. But more important, Davis isn't expected back because his power-running style -- and public complaints -- doesn't mesh with Spurrier's system.
Instead, the Redskins are likely to utilize Ladell Betts and Kenny Watson, both of whom excel as pass-catchers.
Grasping Spurrier's offense was quarterback Patrick Ramsey's main difficulty during his first season. Despite being hindered by a 16-day holdout, Ramsey showed promise while starting five games, including the final two. The Tulane product finished the season with the best quarterback rating (71.8) among the rookies. But Ramsey was more concerned with another statistic from his final two starts.
"We won twice. That means so much to me," said Ramsey, after putting down sneakers and three footballs to talk to reporters. "I think coach [Bill] Parcells said it: A quarterback rating is for fans. The real quarterback rating is your won-loss [record]."
Ramsey expects to bring more wins next season because of his experience.
Ramsey recently bought a home in Northern Virginia to be close to Redskins Park, which he plans on visiting regularly to study tape starting in February. But today, Ramsey will make a 16-hour drive to Louisiana to spend the next month with relatives.
While the starting quarterback position is stable entering next season, several situations are up in the air, especially on defense. Bruce Smith said he will wait to make a decision on his future. Carl Powell wants to return next season but the defensive tackle is one of 11 unrestricted free agents. Powell is a possible successor to Dan Wilkinson, who is expected to be waived.
"I really don't want to go anywhere else," said Powell, who in Sunday's 20-14 victory against Dallas had five tackles and one sack that was concluded with a flip that delighted the crowd at FedEx Field. "I like it here. So hopefully, everything will get taken care of."
Despite Daryl Gardener being an unrestricted free agent following a strong season, the defensive tackle doesn't plan on going anywhere. The best indication was that the 6-foot-6, 300-pound tackle carried only a tiny book leaving Redskins Park: "Who Moved My Cheese?" by Dr. Spencer Johnson.
Gardener borrowed the book from cornerback Fred Smoot, and left his football belongings at Redskins Park. Why?
"I know for a fact, 100 percent," Gardener said, "I will be a Redskin."
On a team full of uncertainty, at least one player promised some stability amid next year's newness.