Sunday, July 30, 2000

NFL INSIDER


Redskins packing them in - for training camp

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Expectations — like crowds — are already big with the Washington Redskins. The 5-1 favorites to win the Super Bowl are drawing an average of 3,000 people a day to their Ashburn, Va., training camp, in spite of the $10 charge to watch and $10 to park.

        Deion Sanders is the main attraction on what has become a marquee fantasy squad jammed with big names. Sanders was cheered for a punt return but booed when receiver Michael Westbrook burned Sanders for a long pass play.

        Washington's top two draft picks also are learning that it's a long way from college football to the NFL.

        Offensive tackle Chris Samuels ($31.5 million over six years) is having trouble with speed rushers on blocking drills.

        Linebacker LaVar Arrington ($33.6 million over six years) got a rude welcome. Matched against veteran tight end James Jenkins in drills, Arrington was knocked to the ground on his first two training camp snaps. On the second play, Jenkins held Arrington's hel met in the dirt for a few seconds.

        SMOOTH OPERATOR: Shaun Alexander's performance, personality and attitude are earning the Boone County High School graduate early comparisons to Marcus Allen at the Seattle Seahawks' training camp.

        The Seahawks say Alexander is the real deal and — on the field — has big-time moves and pass-catching ability.

        Off the field, the former Alabama star also has been described as “polished.”

        BAD TIMING: Kansas City's Andre Rison is coming off his worst season but has the support of his coach, Gunther Cunningham.

        Cunningham said there's no reason to believe Rison can't duplicate his first season with the Chiefs, when he caught 72 passes and made the Pro Bowl.

        The endorsement comes in spite of Rison's pending September court date on a charge he stole a $1,000 tape recorder during the offseason.

        “He's trying to keep me out of jail,” Rison, 33, told reporters shocked by the cranky receiver's graciousness early in camp.

        ALMOST GROWN: Cade McNown's Chicago Bears teammates are glowing about the second-year quarterback's attitude adjustment.

        The former UCLA star is still cocky, but teammates were impressed by his offseason commitment to stay in Chicago and work out.

        “Last year, when he rubbed guys the wrong way, it's because that was his personality,” guard Todd Perry said. “Now we know and understand each other a lot better, and I think Cade will emerge a lot faster than you think.”

        Can the Bears re-emerge from their hibernation? They're 14-32 the last three seasons. A lot depends on McNown, who threw more interceptions than touchdowns, 10 to eight, last season and completed only 54 percent of his passes.

        NO PRESSURE: Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said there's no quarterback controversy in Denver. He sees Brian Griese as the clear starter ahead of Gus Frerotte.

        “I was here when John Elway was in his second year, but if you look at the stats, there wasn't a hell of a lot of difference between him and Brian Griese.”

        Former Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe begs to differ.

        Sharpe, who's with the Ravens this season, says Denver coach Mike Shanahan doesn't share Bowlen's confidence in Griese. And that lack of trust in Griese's ability is what led Shanahan to pursue retired 49ers great Steve Young in the offseason.

        The Broncos open Monday night, Sept.4, in St.Louis against the world champion Rams.

        TIGER BURNING BRIGHT: Broncos running back Terrell Davis and golfer Tiger Woods have become friends and recently dined together at a Denver charity event.

        “You play golf?” Woods asked Davis.

        “Yeah, I play golf,” said Davis, who took up the game about 18 months ago.

        Woods first gave Davis a specific invitation to come to San Diego to play, and when Davis had a scheduling conflict, Woods changed his offer to an open invite.

        Davis, a three-time AFC rushing leader and 1998 MVP, is recovering from a serious knee injury but plans to take Tiger up on his offer.

        “I said, "Cool,'” said Davis, who shoots in the low 90s. “But I wouldn't want to play him right now, because I'm too much of a competitor myself. It would be a blast to play with him, but I would be so embarrassed. I don't want to play sorry, man. So I need to go ahead and get my game refined before I can play him.”

        YOGI COWHER: Yogi Berra, he of mangled phrases and mixed metaphors, has some competition from Steelers coach Bill Cowher.

        Cowher once said the Raiders were trying to “circumcise” a rule. Uh, circumvent?

        Now, at camp this week, Cowher said this to explain what he sees as vast improvement in Pittsburgh's offense: “There's no doubt we're head and heels above where we were a year ago.”

        As opposed to “head over heels” and ...?

        Oh, never mind.

       



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