Drama Behind Him, Zorn's Ready To Go

Redskins

July 28, 2009|By Rick Maese | Rick Maese,The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - - During his first full offseason as a head coach, Jim Zorn spent some time in Seattle. He visited Harpers Ferry, W.Va. He read Jeffrey Archer's latest book, plus some Daniel Silva and a recent tome on Lincoln's ideology.

All the while, his thoughts never drifted far from the task before him: returning the Washington Redskins to prominence.

"Even when I'm on vacation, I'm paying attention to what we need to be doing as an organization," Zorn said. "So by this point, I'm completely ready to go."

Zorn opens his second training camp on Thursday, concluding an offseason of drama and commencing a preseason of cautious optimism mixed with lingering uncertainty.

It's different this time around, Zorn said. A year ago, a rookie head coach began his first camp with only six quick months of preparation.

"As we were installing everything, as we were getting to know each other, I was really teaching the offensive coaches our offense still, as well as the players," Zorn said. "This year, there's a different type of preparation. We know more of what to expect on offense. We're not learning vocabulary. We're not learning terminology. We're not learning the system or the tempo. We know what we're dealing with."

Zorn insisted he's undeterred by the offseason headlines: He was sad to see tackle Jon Jansen go, he said; it's unfortunate Jason Campbell had to see his job security get bandied about like a shuttlecock; and he finds it odd Clinton Portis vs. Jim Zorn grew into such a soap opera.

"The media said, 'Oh, my gosh, there's a problem,' " Zorn said of his relationship with his star running back. "I don't think we ever had any problem at all. We're communicating better than ever."

Of Campbell, Zorn said he has zero worries about lingering effects from an offseason in which he saw the Redskins chase after Jay Cutler and then attempt to work a deal that could've brought rookie Mark Sanchez to town. Training camp will not be a test of Campbell's commitment to the team or his level of confidence, the coach says.

"I think I've already seen what I'd want to see from Jason. I think I saw it in [organized team activities], in the minicamps, in the way he's handled himself," Zorn said. "I'm not going to sit back and analyze it every day of camp. He's already done very well. He was out here yesterday working just as hard as he was during the 'drama.' For him, it doesn't turn on or off. He said to himself: 'This is the way it is. Life isn't always fair, but I'm going to handle it. I'm going to keep working.' "

While outsiders might turn an eye to Redskins Park to assess Zorn's job security - Can he capitalize on owner Daniel Snyder's heavy offseason investment and roster additions to return the Redskins to the playoffs after a one-year absence? - the second-year head coach said all he can do is put his head down and make a few key preseason decisions that will help the club come Week 1.

For starters, he's looking for a right tackle to replace Jansen, he wants more depth at wide receiver and he's curious to see whether newcomer Albert Haynesworth, a two-time Pro Bowl selection at defensive tackle, will make players around him better.

"There isn't just one battle," Zorn said. "There's several battles."

It's all a decision-making process that he's been looking forward to for months.

"I think my enthusiasm is the same," he said. "My approach may be different, just from the standpoint of having a year behind us. I absolutely know our players this year because we've had a year together. So I'm going to be better because I've been around our players a lot and know what to expect. They know me better and know what to expect from me, too.

"I've got a little bit different perspective having had one year - the comfort of knowing where we've been and where we are today, I can see the development of our team, and ... we're going in the right direction."

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