Samuels in fold - if not in shape

`Heavy in the stomach,' 'Skins pick fattens wallet with six-year contract

Pro Football

July 19, 2000|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - The last words out of the mouth of Washington Redskins first-round draft pick Chris Samuels as he was being whisked out of the team's interview room were, "Gotta get to practice."

What followed next were a wide grin and a slide step out the door, as the 6-foot-5, 325-pound tackle went to dress and join his fellow rookies and free agents in the team's afternoon session.

Hearing those words and watching those actions brought relief to coach Norv Turner, who was a little miffed about the absence of the draft's third overall pick at Monday's opening of training camp at Redskin Park.

"I've been giving Chris a bad time about missing a lot of work so far," Turner said, half-jokingly.

"Our organization made a significant move in trading to get the third pick. It ended up being Chris Samuels. When you make that type of move and end up with a player like Chris Samuels, that is how you get a lot better really fast. ... He's really ready to come in here and be a terrific player for us early."

Samuels signed a six-year deal worth as much as $47 million. The contract also contains a voidable seventh year worth about $8 million, a $10 million signing bonus and escalator clauses that could boost the total to $47 million.

The base salary will average a little more than $5 million a year.

The draft's second overall selection, LaVar Arrington, remains the lone unsigned pick for the Redskins, though his deal could get done as early as today, the last practice before veterans join in tomorrow and training camp is opened to the public.

But yesterday, as director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato said, "was Chris Samuels Day."

Turner conceded that Samuels is the starter over veteran Andy Heck, though the rookie came out rusty in the afternoon practice, a result of his not having hit since playing for Alabama in December's Southeastern Conference title game.

Since then, Samuels has admittedly had trouble pulling himself away from the buffet table. He struggled in one-on-one drills with the reserve defensive linemen, a surprise considering that Samuels did not give up a sack last year with the Crimson Tide.

"I got whipped early," Samuels said of practice. "But I got better as the day went. I hadn't been in these pads in a while.

"I felt heavy in the stomach area. I wouldn't say I've been eating right. But I've been doing a lot of running as far as staying in shape goes. When I see that food, I can't help myself."

Come regular season, Samuels will need to be in the best shape if he wants to help himself reach many of those escalator clauses that would boost his contract by nearly $16 million.

"The key components of the deal are sacks given up by the offensive line, playoff participation and average yards per passing play," Samuels' agent, Jimmy Sexton, said.

Most thought Samuels' deal would come soon after Arrington's. Instead, it came before, and now the value of Arrington's package could fall between those of the draft's top pick, Courtney Brown, and Samuels, both of whom have signed.

There was a great deal of optimism early in the week that a deal would be complete by tomorrow. But as of late yesterday afternoon, Cerrato said he hadn't heard from Arrington's principal agent, Carl Poston.

It is also looking more likely that Pro Bowl running back Stephen Davis will not be present tomorrow. Davis declined to sign the team's one-year tender worth just over $3.5 million and instead wants a long-term deal.

"I would hope that he's here," Turner said. "If he isn't, there are a couple of guys who are anxious to get the ball in Skip Hicks and Adrian Murrell, pretty talented guys. We'll just go."

NOTES: Deion Sanders and Michael Westbrook were both on hand yesterday, though they don't have to report until Wednesday night. ... Running back Norman Miller had to be carted off the field in the afternoon session after suffering a bruised hip. He's listed as day-to-day. Rookie wide receiver Marcus Stiggers, out of Colorado, has a strained hip flexor and will likely miss today's practice.

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