Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday he plans to devote a great deal of time working on special situations such as two-minute drills and short-yardage defense and offense when the team begins its third and final minicamp of the offseason at Redskins Park today.
The pace and structure of the three-day minicamp will come as no surprise to the players. At Gibbs's urging, most Redskins have been attending regular voluntary practices -- which the NFL refers to as organized team activities, or OTAs -- the past several weeks.
The Redskins will hold similar practice sessions for the next three weeks, including eight more OTAs. Gibbs will then give his players about a month off before training camp.
"We have about three weeks of real hard work. We go right from the minicamps into OTA, so this will be a real intense time before we give players a long break until training camp," Gibbs told reporters. "There's a lot we have to cover. Since we have a new staff, we're working a lot of new schemes in. When we get to training camp, we're not going to have a great deal of time to work on all of the specialty items like the two-minute, short-yardage and goal-line drills. So this is a real critical time for us."
Each minicamp session will be broken down into 90-minute practices, weightlifting sessions and meetings, a similar setup to the voluntary practices.
Under the labor agreement with the NFL Players Association, NFL clubs are each allowed 14 OTAs. Gibbs used four from May 17 to May 20, and plans to use all but two of his allotment. Gibbs said he has been pleased that attendance has been about 95 percent, a contrast to the 75 percent attendance from recent years. Gibbs said he was disappointed by the failure of some players to show up, although he did not name them.
Overall, Gibbs praised his players' attitude and said that the team has emphasized conditioning this offseason.
Gibbs scaled back his first minicamp, held from March 26-28, because of injuries. In the second minicamp, April 30-May 2, Gibbs got his first glimpse of the club's four rookies and new acquisitions such as linebacker Mike Barrow.
The team's health has markedly improved since. Only cornerback Walt Harris (left knee) and tight end Robert Royal (left knee) won't participate in this minicamp. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey appears to have fully recovered from the right foot surgery he underwent last December. And cornerback Shawn Springs (bruised knee) is also better, Gibbs said. Springs described himself at the second minicamp as 85 percent healed.
The Redskins face the Denver Broncos in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 9. But Gibbs won't require the players to return to Redskins Park until early August.
"What I've kind of sold the players on is the fact that if we work real hard in the offseason that I would give them a long break," said Gibbs, who plans to vacation at the same stretch, and spend time visiting his grandchildren. "Hopefully, you're able to save them 10 days at the first part of the season, it's going to be able to help you at the end of the season."
Except for a 15-20 minute window at the start of minicamp, the media now won't be allowed to watch. Gibbs believes that his players get distracted by the presence of reporters. More than 30 journalists attended the last minicamp, many more than during his first tenure as Redskins coach.
Also, Gibbs doesn't want outsiders to view technical aspects of the practices. "What's changed is [there's no longer] four or five people on a daily basis," Gibbs explained. "Now, we're getting so many more people covering the team. From what I can see there, it's kind of unmanageable."
Redskins Note: Rookie safety Sean Taylor, the team's No. 1 draft pick, is expected to choose Eugene Mato as his agent in the next several days, according to several sources with knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity because the decision isn't official. Mato, based in Coral Gables, Fla., with International Athlete Management, has strong ties to the University of Miami, where Taylor played.