Zorn at the Combine
INDIANAPOLIS--Washington Redskins Coach Jim Zorn just got done with his scheduled news conference at the NFL scouting combine and then a fairly lengthy chat with a small group of reporters afterward.
A few key points:
Guard Randy Thomas, according to Zorn, underwent surgery last month for a neck injury. The injury was related to Thomas's spine and was causing some numbness, according to Zorn, who added he was not clear about all the medical details. Thomas was diagnosed with the injury during the season and knew he eventually would have to undergo surgery but continued playing, Zorn said. Thomas now is resting but doctors expect him to make a full recovery and resume his career, according to Zorn.
Zorn said the team must get some of its younger reserves on its offensive line ready to play larger roles next season if needed. He stopped short of proclaiming, however, that the club's aging offensive line must be overhauled this offseason.
He said he doesn't expect the Redskins to re-sign cornerback DeAngelo Hall or guard Pete Kendall, both prospective unrestricted free agents, before the opening of the NFL's free agent market on Feb. 27. But he didn't completely rule it out, either, and said the team remains hopeful of re-signing both eventually.
He said the Redskins remain interested in bringing back defensive end Jason Taylor for a second season with the team.
According to Zorn, the Redskins plan to be active and aggressive in exploring the possibilities of signing free agents from other teams. He cautioned that doesn't necessarily mean that the club will make the same sort of big-money free agent signings that once were commonplace under owner Daniel Snyder and front office chief Vinny Cerrato. The players in which the Redskins are interested, he said, must be willing to sign with them for a reasonable price. Still, it's a departure from the proclamations being made this time last offseason, when Zorn and Cerrato were saying that the Redskins wouldn't be active in free agency.
Zorn said he's hopeful that tight end Fred Davis and wide receivers Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas will contribute far more next season as second-year pros than they did this past season as rookies. Kelly is expected to participate in a portion of the offseason practices, Zorn said, after undergoing recent knee surgery.
The Redskins plan to have two kickers and two punters competing for next season's jobs, Zorn said.
Zorn indicated that young quarterback Colt Brennan will be given plenty of playing time in preseason games and perhaps could unseat Todd Collins as the club's No. 2 quarterback behind Jason Campbell. When pressed on the issue, though, Zorn seemed to indicate it might be a long shot for Brennan to take the backup job from Collins.
More details later...
UPDATED (4:39 p.m.)...
Zorn's comments at the interview podium...
What did your review of the season show?
"Yeah, there were a couple of things to look at. Number one, where we got stopped in our offensive thrust to try to get the ball in the end zone was really from the plus-50 to the plus-20. That's where we ended a lot of drives. So we have been taking a detailed look at that. There are some answers there, and that's what we're trying to address as we come into our minicamps, training camp... as we start experimenting with some new ideas. Our overall schemes are going to stay the same. It's how we get that ball into the red zone and then be able to score from the red zone--those are some concerns of mine because we didn't score enough points this football season."
On free agency...
"Well, I think every team will try to be active, and we certainly will as well. I don't know, you know, some of the things that we'll try for--we'll have some guys in. I think free agency has to do with both parties trying to get together, all sides of the issue trying to get together and coming to some kind of a need help, and then being able to agree on how to get it done. So, yeah, I think we'll have some activity. I wouldn't know how much or how little that's going to end up being."
Will you have the salary cap space to be active?
"Yes. Again, I wouldn't know how much. And that plays a part in how active we can be. Some teams can be more active than others. I'm not gonna go into talking about what the space is."
How did you change, evolve as coach?
"I think that what I'm doing now is I have a much better handle on the process it's gonna take to get towards our upcoming season. I don't have to be concerned about as much of putting in a whole new scheme, of trying to get everybody up to speed on vocabulary and kind of the way we're gonna run things, that things are running smooth. From the nuts and bolts of it, those things are already laid out. I don't think I'll evolve from a total transformation, being one way one year and a completely different way another. I think just the experience that I've gotten from the first year has helped me. I hope to be as enthusiastic and as constant and as consistent and I've been in the past.
"The changes that have to be made are small, significant, directional changes in everybody's need to try to get better. You can't stay the same. I've said this to our team: If you really just stay the way you are, if you do what you've always done, you'll be what you've always been. That's kind of the picture there. We have to make some changes. But I wouldn't say that I have to go 180 degrees. That would mean that everything we've done didn't matter. And we're building a program, and so the things that we are doing matter. That's where we're heading."
On Jason Taylor...
"I think on both sides, it's really frustrating for Jason to have all the adversity, especially starting out with us, changing a whole environment and then getting injured and then getting injured again. And so it was really an uphill battle for him. I think fortunately for us, he battled his way through. I tip my hat to him because he played injured. Every week I would always say to our media, 'I don't know. That's gonna be a game-time situation.' And yet he came through and played as hard as he could. I think it was a disappointment for him to not be as disruptive on the other side of the line of scrimmage as he wanted to be. Yeah, I think we hope to have him back. That'll be something that we work through as free agency begins and as we decide how our defense is gonna line up. Some of it has to do with him, too. So, yeah, we're working on that. I think we have a very good relationship. I think he really liked playing Redskin football and I think he would only like to play Redskin football at 100 percent."
On Jason Campbell entering the final season of his contract...
"I don't know how that's gonna get done quite yet. I haven't really thought about his contract as it has to do with me because those things are kind of worked out as the player goes along with his own agent and our administration. I know that I'm getting ready to coach him hard, just like I did last year. As far as the years or extension, I don't know how that's gonna play out yet."
Can he separate the business and the playing?
"Well, I hope so. It'll always be in the back of his mind, I think, when he's on that subject. But I think when he's trying to get better, I think he can do that. I think he's a pretty quality guy. I don't think he'll stay away because he wants to negotiate a contract. I think he'll be there working hard, trying to be a better QB."
Do you need to overhaul an aging offensive line?
"I wouldn't word it like that because that means that, again, we're going in an 180-degree direction. But I think we've got to get the younger guys, the [Chad] Rineharts, the [Devin] Clarks, the guys that are battling to earn playing time--we've got to get them up to speed. And I think this offseason program that starts in the middle of March will help them help us. And then the guys that we do have that are the older, veteran guys--they've been around for a long time. I fully suspect they'll be back to prepare themselves physically, healing wounds.
"I see Chris Samuels in the office every day. I see him working, rehabbing, trying to get ready so that he can start on day one. The other issue is Randy Thomas, who just had a bit of a neck surgery, working on part of his spine. What is calls for, for him, is to rest it completely. He's been calling, itching to get back lifting and running and doing those things, but there's a progression to it. So I guess the long answer is, and I'll try to make it shorter, is all those guys are preparing themselves to be in our offseason program, to get themselves ready for another year. As far as changes, some of it will depend on how the rehabs go and how the younger guys improve as to where our needs are truly going to be."
What are you doing here?
"The only thing I'm really getting up to speed with is really the college guys. We've had to evaluate our own [players]. We've had to evaluate the free agents. Now I'm going 100 miles an hour on these college guys. Today it was kickers, punters. It was long snappers. It was tight ends and o-line. So I've done some surface stuff before I got here. But it was all surface. It was trying to get an overview. Now this is a great time for me because it allows me to dig deep."
Anything that you ask each player here?
"A lot of the initial, the normal questions are being answered. I like to ask about what goals do they have in mind for their career? Do they have a vision of where they want to be in five years as a ballplayer? I want to find out about their leadership. So I'm asking questions, trying to dig deeper as to what kind of a teammate they were in their program. I also want to know what's going on off the field if I can get any idea. If there is something there that was kind of a chink in their armor off the field, I want to find out about that from the player personally. I'm looking more at the character issues. You kind of see what they can do on video pretty good. There's an immeasurable there as to how that guy is going to come to your program and fit into your team and your locker room, and you've got to try to make sure about those issues before you pull the trigger."
More on Jason Taylor...
"Outstanding guy. What I was impressed with was, he didn't just play on Sunday. He tried to come and play hard in practice. So I was very impressed with what he did in practice. I thought what he brought, the maturity level he brought the football team--there's a lot of things that followed him this year because he changed teams and also he danced real well. So there was an extra level of interest there for him. But he handled it very well and was an excellent teammate, joined right in. We're hoping that can happen again, even to a higher level because he'll be in better condition and better health."
What you learned as a head coach, clock management...
"I felt very comfortable in the situations, having played quarterback for a while and understood where the time needs to be saved. I think I got into trouble early in the season where I felt like I could have gone back and saved a minute of time, especially in one game. I lost some seconds there, not thinking fast enough. Other than that, I felt like we were pretty good as far as the time management. Where I had to really focus, and I didn't realize it, was as the play-caller, I'm getting ready for the next series and if our defense is on the field in the last two minutes of the game and we need to take defensive timeouts or decide on penalties or decide on how defensive situations are going to play out, I had to be much more focused in that. That wasn't necessarily comfortable early in the year, but it became more comfortable as the year went on. But that was something I had to deal with."
On Clinton Portis being noncommittal about participating in offseason workouts...
"Well, I want everybody to participate. As far as it being a concern, I think he's going to come in in very good shape. I'm hoping that he'll participate in everything. I haven't had that conversation with him, or I could answer that question for you today. But I fully expect him to participate at a strong level. I think he will himself. Everybody knows what's at stake. Based on the percentage, I can't tell you how much that's going to be yet because I haven't talked to him."
UPDATE II (5:22 p.m.)...
Some of what Zorn said to a group of reporters after his formal press conference...
On the cornerback situation...
"We're in really good shape because we've got guys sitting there in Fred Smoot, Carlos Rogers. But the decisions are DeAngelo [Hall], Shawn Springs. We've got Justin Tryon, who we got last year. So we're good there. The athletes that we're talking about there are very good. But free agency will determine direction and, really, it will determine on a couple of those situations how we end up. I can't even imagine what that's going to be like. I hope we get them all."
Sign Hall before free agency starts?
"I don't think it will be. To be honest with you, I don't think it will be. But, again, I'm not in that. It could. I'm not, on a daily basis, trying to check to see where we are. I think there's a pace [at which] that's taking place. All parties, they have to come together at the right time."
Can Davis, Thomas and Kelly help more next season?
"Absolutely. I've got a lot of confidence in that and the reason for that is I see Devin there almost every day. Fred Davis has come back. Now, he's a tight end, but he's come back already and he's working. I see Devin in the weight room, getting strong, getting ready. He's excited. Malcolm Kelly has had that surgery and we're working carefully with his knee. What I was impressed with last year with Malcolm and Devin--you know, Devin came on faster but Malcolm, even at the end of the year, was coming closer and closer. We did get that surgery... but it wasn't major. We just wanted to take care of it so that when he starts--and he's gonna be ready, I believe, for the last eight OTAs, that's what we're hoping--so that it's not a training camp issue again. If we can do that, both of those guys are going to really improve."
Could you feel comfortable going with this receiving corps?
"I like who we have. I could feel comfortable in that. Some of it is trying to go on potential. But we're optimistic about that potential. You can't ask for more than what Santana [Moss] did. We could probably try to get the ball more to Antwaan [Randle El] or whatever. But, gosh, the guys that are going to be coming on are going to be Devin and Malcolm. We have to hope that they do well."
Will Kelly's knee always be a concern?
"I think it will be a concern in training camp to not overdo it because training camp is such a grind. The other concern for Malcolm is, he's got to play so he can get the feel for the speed and the nature of the game, the violence of the game. It's kind of a Catch-22: We've got to get him out there. But it's hard to risk him too much in preseason. I'm trying to decide how that's going to happen. Some of it will be decided upon how his knee reacts, and we're just going to try to be smart with it."
That was an arthroscopic procedure?
"It was an arthroscopic procedure, but it was something that we had to do.... It was a procedure more than just a clean-out. But I will say this: There was an expectation that there was going to be more done, and there wasn't as much done. So it wasn't as extensive as we thought the surgery might have to be, so we're really excited about that."
Do you expect Randy Thomas to participate in offseason practices?
"I don't know yet. He's still in a particular part of his rehab where rest is the issue. He is miserable when that happens, believe me. So he's been pretty vocal about trying to get started. And yet, we're going to do the right thing by him as well. But we think that he's going to come on and be able to participate as well.
"... What they did is, they helped relieve some irritation on the spine that was causing some numbness, and they either opened up that cavity a little bit or they cleaned it out a little bit.... The word is that everything went well and we rehab it right... I think he'll be fine."
Is Samuels on track?
"Yeah, very much on track."
More on Hall...
"I think there's going to be a fast and furious pace by most NFL teams when free agency starts. If you don't get it done then, it doesn't mean you can't get it done the next day or the next week or whatever. I think initially there's going to be some fast and furious pace. But I think it's gonna take a while because it means a lot to DeAngelo. It means a lot to us to have it done right. I just think there's a pace to it."
"We're gonna go out and get probably a couple guys to compete against each other.... We ended up 32nd in punting. That's not a great place to be.... We didn't improve. We actually started out bad and we ended up bad.... There are several guys that we're looking at. I can't make a statement as to which guy or guys we're going to have."
Can you afford, with the roster limit, to have two kickers and two punters?
"Yes. We have to. And it's because of where we're at. If we had top-10 situations there, then I'd say, 'Okay, let's put that into some other area.' It's such a critical issue for us, we have to bring in two [punters] and I think we have to have competition for [kicker Shaun] Suisham to be able to encourage him to get better as well."
Do you think you'll re-sign Kendall?
Before free agency starts?
"Don't know. I don't think that. But we've got a pretty good nucleus of guys."
Could you have the same group of starters on the offensive line?
"You would put me on the spot here to be negative toward the guys we've got, and I don't want to do that. Those guys' careers are coming to a close. They don't necessarily have to start to be a part of our football team, that same starting group, if you want. I'm hoping that we can get the younger guys that we do have in our program up to speed to where they can compete with those guys. We just need to go further down the line in the football season with the offensive line intact. After eight games last year when we faced Pittsburgh, Baltimore, those guys are very, very physical. It took its toll on us."
"His goal is to try to unseat Todd. Todd's goal is to try to stay as close to Jason as he can. It's gonna be a great competition. I look forward to it."
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