Every training camp provides juicy fodder for Skins fans to chew over. There are starting jobs to be won or lost - okay, not so much at this camp - and rookies to scrutinize. Changes in strategy and personnel to mull over. Much of it has, alas, become cliched. I, however, will be closely monitoring some less obvious subplots, and contemplating their potential ramifications in the regular season.
Without further ado:
1) Will Al Saunders be able to refrain from bursting onto the field, sprinting up to his offensive players and giving them a fist bump when the games start to count, or will his unbridled exuberance result in a series of season-crushing penalties? I know he's the ultimate veteran and all, and has been through the NFL wars much of his life, but the associate head coach has come close to getting crushed a few times already in training camp in his zest to implore his players. If the Skins have the kind of offensive rebirth some are predicting, the opportunities for Saunders to go bonkers could be frequent.
2) Have we seen the last of Southeast Jerome? I know he's been resurrected at least once before, after meeting an early demise in that ugly loss at New York in October, and, as my favorite of Clinton Portis's alter-egos, I'm all for another sighting.
3) Can anyone fill LaVar Arrington's shoes ... in those Eastern Motors commercials. Sure, others have shown promise in recent years, Portis chief among them, but to me LaVar was always the straw that stirred the drink. His delivery of, "Stay down, punk," was priceless. This question may have already been answered, since I've spent much of the last two months either in Germany or Rehobeth Beach. The new spots might already be airing and I've just missed them, since now I'm basically living at Redskins Park and seeing no local TV. Any info or thoughts would be appreciated.
4) Will the Redskins hire any more coaches before the season begins? Anyone left out there? Is too much never enough?
I think I'm going to like this French linebacker from NFL Europe. Philippe Gardent, who was placed on the Redskins practice squad as part of an NFL Europe program and is a product of the esteemed French linebacker factory - NSC Marseille, seems like a adrenaline junkie. Besides somehow stumbling into the world of NFL football, and at linebacker no less, he's also a big-time skier and bobsledder. But how many guys in training camps right now also have a Masters in communication and marketing?
Gardent surely isn't in this for the money, and, as he puts it, could be doing alright for himself back in his homeland. "I have connections in Paris," he said of job prospects outside of football. Gardent is eager to get some reps in Saturday's scrimmage against the Ravens, and, of greatest interest to me, provided precisely the kind of take on the Zinedine Zidane headbutt in the World Cup Final you would expect from a French linebacker.
"I don't blame him," Gardent said of his countryman. "I would do the same I think. It was a World Cup final and you do the best you can. (Italian Marco Materazzi) probably said something really bad to him and there was a lot of pressure on his shoulders. I might have done the same."
The highlight of the notoriously droll annual meeting with NFL officials to discuss rule changes for the upcoming season had to be a comical exchange between Sonny Jurgensen and longtime ref Johnny Grier, who now works in the league officiating department. Sonny, being the old gunslinger that he is, wanted more explanation of a tuck-rule call from the Denver game last season, when Jake Plummer lost the ball in his motion, it rolled backwards into the end zone for what Washington believed was a safety.
Grier explained that the QB is still considered to be in the act of passing even as the arm is past the shoulder and on its way down, and that motion is not deemed complete until the ball is tucked back in the passer's hip. Sonny would have none of this.
"That's bull (you can guess the rest)!" the Hall of Famer said.
Grier took it in strike, chuckling himself. But rules are rules, and in this case it was interpreted correctly.
"Sonny, that's just the way the rule is," Grier said. "I didn't write it."
Randoms: B.Lloyd showed up right away on the officiating video all NFL teams watch, in the very first highlight no less. He was diving low to catch a pass against Carolina and came away with a pretty, one-handed grab ... To the surprise of no one, ubber-gruff linebackers coach Dale Lindsey is riding top draft pick Rocky McIntosh hard. I've lost count of the number of f-bombs directed at the rook already ... I'm told that web traffic is way down on the weekends, but if I get some time and inspiration, I'll try to put something up from the scrimmage on Saturday from Fed Ex ... Joe Gibbs could have a career as a TV meteorologist if this football things doesn't work out. He spoke about the storm the other night like a real pro, dropping knowledge of frontal systems and "storm cells": when the Skins opted to cut practice short amid the lightning ... We've got practice in a few minutes, then I have a chat on washingtonpost.com at 1:30, so hope to catch up with all of you then.
Have a great weekend.
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