There is little question that the Redskins' offense this season will be directed by assistant head coach Al Saunders.
In steamy Ashburn, Va., where for the fourth consecutive preseason the Redskins are conducting training camp at their year-round team complex. Washington last trained on the road in 2002, Steve Spurrier's first season as head coach, after which they ended their summer relationship with Dickinson University in Carlisle, Pa.
1. To watch new Redskins assistant head coach/offense Al Saunders ply his craft in practice is a sight to behold. He's not a young man, but he's in near perpetual motion, either trailing the ballcarrier down the field to offer one of his many post-play fist-bumps or doling out a supportive pat on the back and an immediate piece of instruction on the mistake the receiver, running back or tight end just made.
This much is clear: This is Saunders' show on offense in Washington this season. Head coach Joe Gibbs has done everything but toss him the keys and remind him to put gas in it. Gibbs, a pretty fair offensive coach himself, is keeping a very low profile in Redskins practices this summer, stepping back to allow Saunders to do what he was paid handsomely to do: implement the offense that has produced such glitzy results in both St. Louis and Kansas City.
2. This just in: It's hot. Really hot. As Matthew Broderick's character in Biloxi Blues said upon arriving in Mississippi: "It's like Africa hot.'' The high in the Washington area was 100 Wednesday, with a heat index of about 108, and it felt every bit of that. The Redskins wisely moved their only practice of the day from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and there was still plenty of heat at that relatively late hour. "It was still hot,'' new Redskins receiver Antwaan Randle El told me after the night practice. "It got hot in Pittsburgh, but not like this hot. I've never played in heat like this.''
You always think of football being played in the crisp fall air, or the chill of winter, but the reality is that the season begins in the dead of summer, at the time of the year when the last thing the human body should be wearing is a full set of football pads. The NFL has to be crossing its fingers that no player falls seriously ill from the unrelenting heat wave that's scorching the East Coast. It was five years ago this week that Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer collapsed and died at training camp from complications of heatstroke.