The National Football League is back. After months of arguing, the NFL owners and players have signed a new contract. Players are reporting to their training camps.

Washington Redskins fans are happy. None of the regular-season games will be canceled or postponed. All the teams missed were some offseason workouts. That’s not such a big deal. Is it?

I’m not so sure. Those offseason workouts are important. It seems to me they are like something that some kids know about: summer school.

If you don’t know about summer school, let me explain what it is for most kids. Let’s say you didn’t do very well in math or reading last year in school. Your teacher and parents might decide you need to go to school during the summer or get extra help during your vacation so you will be ready for next year. Summer school helps lots of kids improve at school.

The Redskins need all the summer school, or offseason work, they can get. Last season, the Redskins’ record was six wins and 10 losses. They finished last in the East Division of the National Football Conference. The Redskins have lots of things they need to improve for the 2011 season.

For example, it appears that the Redskins are going to change quarterbacks. There’s talk that John Beck will replace six-time Pro Bowl player Donovan McNabb as the starter.

Who’s John Beck? He’s a 29-year-old quarterback who has thrown only 107 passes in NFL games since he came out of Brigham Young University. McNabb has thrown more than 5,000! That’s a big difference. If Beck is going to play, he needs lots of practice so he can get to learn the position and his teammates.

Last season, the Redskins tried a new defense. It didn’t work very well. The Redskins’ defense was rated 31st among the 32 teams in the NFL, giving up almost 400 yards a game. Again, the players need time to learn the new defense and make it work.

Finally, the Redskins got 12 new players in the NFL draft, including first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan, a star defensive end from Purdue University. That’s good, because the Redskins need younger and faster players.

But rookies need time to learn the complicated plays and defense in pro football. They also need practice to adjust to the speed of the NFL. The offseason workouts are like summer school for rookies: a chance to get better for the new season.

So just like most Redskins fans, I’m excited that the players are back. But in the fall, we might wish the team had gone to summer school.

Fred Bowen is the author of 16 sports books for kids. His latest book is “Quarterback Season.”