Turner understands Shuler's nervousness

April 30, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- Heath Shuler wouldn't admit it, but coach Norv Turner said he could tell how nervous the Washington Redskins rookie quarterback was in his first workout at Redskins Park yesterday.

"You know how you tell a guy is nervous?" Turner asked. "You watch him, and about the first four or five times he drops back, he's breathing like he just ran a marathon. And Heath was breathing pretty good, so I think he was probably nervous."

Turner figured that was normal.

After all, Shuler isn't just another rookie. The Tennessee product the first quarterback the Redskins have drafted on the first round in three decades. He's the guy Turner is counting on to make him a successful head coach in the Washington pressure cooker.

L Shuler wasn't the only rookie who had butterflies yesterday.

"I was nervous," Turner said. "It's fun to get out there and get nervous. That's why we do this. It's an exciting time for a lot of young guys, and it's really an exciting time for me."

Shuler's throws got most of the attention, although there were two surprises at the minicamp.

The first was that safety Danny Copeland, who is thinking of retiring because he's worried about all the neck injuries he's suffered, discussed his concerns about his future with Turner and was excused from the minicamp. They'll talk again Monday.

The other surprise was that running back Brian Mitchell, who had talked about skipping the camp, decided to show up. He hopes he can come to terms on a new deal with the Redskins. Running back Earnest Byner and defensive lineman Jim Wahler were the only two players who skipped the camp.

Even though the first practice of the three-day weekend minicamp was cut short by an afternoon thunderstorm, Turner was upbeat after Shuler's throwing. Turner said he wasn't bothered that Shuler, in typical rookie fashion, under-threw some receivers and overthrew others.

"He was really good," Turner said. "[We saw] the same things we've seen all along. He really has a strong arm. He's very, very quick with the ball. Obviously, there's a lot of work to do and a lot of adjustment, but he was impressive."

Shuler said that Turner told him: "Calm down, you have all this adrenalin flowing. Just lay the ball out there. Don't try to drill it."

Shuler added: "I try not to get nervous. When you get nervous, that's when you make a mistake. I feel comfortable."

After the minicamp ends tomorrow, Shuler and the rest of the rookies aren't allowed to report back to Redskins Park until June 1.

That will give the Redskins three months to get him ready for the Sept. 4 opener against the Seattle Seahawks.

Even though the Redskins play three tough defensive teams in the first five weeks -- the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants on the road and the Dallas Cowboys at home -- Turner said he isn't worried about going with Shuler from the start.

"I don't even think the schedule is an issue," Turner said. "We're the issue if we can get ourselves ready to play."

Shuler said he's eager to step into the starting lineup for the opener.

"If not, you wouldn't want to be here," he said. "That's not being arrogant or cocky. I want to remain humble, but why go out there and give it 110 percent and not expect to give it your very best?"

Shuler tried to fit in and show he's one of the guys despite his high profile. He came out of the locker room and went to the practice field with two veteran offensive linemen -- Jim Lachey and Raleigh McKenzie.

"You like it when a quarterback hangs around with the offensive linemen," Lachey said with a smile. "It shows he has a little bit of intelligence."

NOTES: If Mitchell comes to terms on a new deal with the !B Redskins, it will mean Byner's days with the team are over. General manager Charley Casserly said the club will only sign one more running back. Neither Mitchell nor Byner appears to have any other options. Mitchell's only offer came from the New York Jets, and their interest cooled after they drafted RB Fred Lester. Byner hasn't gotten another offer. . . . Casserly said the club hasn't decided what its next move will be if Copeland decides to retire. His departure would give the team $950,000 more to spend this year.

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