All 11 players blitz on first scrimmage of camp

Updated: March 26, 2004, 9:28 PM ET
Associated Press

ASHBURN, Va. -- That's no way to welcome back a Hall of Fame coach.

On the first scrimmage play of Joe Gibbs' first Washington Redskins minicamp in a dozen years, assistant coach for defense Gregg Williams pulled a surprise and blitzed all 11 players.

"Why would Gregg do that?" Gibbs said, laughing. "You're supposed to follow the script. The defense always cheats."

If it had been a full contract drill, quarterback Mark Brunell would have been pummeled into the turf.

"I don't think I've ever seen that in my career, bring all 11 guys," Brunell said. "I don't know if I would have made it through that play."

Williams tipped off Gibbs only seconds before the ball was snapped. No one else knew it was coming, except the 11 players in the defensive huddle.

"It was an attitude setter," Williams said. "That's what we hope to be like for the rest of 2004."

The night before, it was Gibbs who set the tone with an inspired speech at his first team dinner since coming out of retirement. On Friday, as if on cue, an unusually glorious, sunny March day greeted the players for a high-spirited practice they hope begins a return to the glory days.

"Coach Gibbs, he commands respect instantly," Brunell said. "Guys know what he has done in his career. That speaks for itself. But he's a good man, too. He's going to push you. He's going to make you work hard, and at the same time he's going to treat you like a man. Guys like that."

Dressed in a white shirt and shorts, Gibbs paid rapt attention to the opening special teams drill -- something departed coach Steve Spurrier rarely did. Later, the 63-year-old Gibbs even played some cornerback, backpedaling against receivers while teaching them how to react to different coverages.

"The players were pretty good. I was way off. I was slow starting," Gibbs said with another laugh. "It's a little bit like having amnesia. Every now and then something flashes, and I go, 'That's what we did.'"

Players were eager to learn the secrets behind Gibbs' three Super Bowl victories during his first stint with the Redskins from 1981-92. They learned his two basic rules -- use common sense and don't embarrass the team -- and that he wants to redefine what it means to play for a franchise that has struggled since he left.

"He said, 'I ain't going to be no dictator to y'all. We're going to have a football team and family,' And that's what you want," cornerback Fred Smoot said. "We're arming with a new general. Anytime you've got a new general, you've got a chance to win the battle."

The three-day camp opened with two simmering controversies.

Incumbent quarterback Patrick Ramsey's agent had requested a trade shortly after the deal was made to acquire Brunell. In his first comments in a month, Ramsey said he was now content to stay and compete for the job.

"I didn't ever demand a trade," Ramsey said. "The way I felt about it was if Mark was going to come in and be the starter, and there was going to be no competition, I didn't feel like that would be a great situation for me. I was assured that was not the situation, and that's why I'm happy to still be here."

Ramsey didn't take part in team drills as he recovers from foot surgery.

Meanwhile, linebacker LaVar Arrington has filed a grievance over $6.5 million he claims is missing from the new contract he signed in December. Arrington is scheduled to address reporters Saturday.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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