ASHBURN, Va. -- Shawn Springs thought he would have a little fun when he intercepted a pass, so he lateraled the ball to Fred Smoot. Smoot tipped the ball around like a volleyball before it fell to the ground.
That's when the rookie head coach made his presence known. Rather emphatically.
Running his first practices Friday as the Washington Redskins opened a three-day minicamp, Zorn was different from his larger-than-life predecessors. He wasn't a straw hat-wearing field general, like Marty Schottenheimer. Not a college comedy act who hangs out mainly with the quarterbacks, like Steve Spurrier. Not an untouchable Hall of Fame overlord surveying the landscape, like Joe Gibbs.
Rather, Zorn was hands-on and enthusiastic, making him look younger than someone about to turn 55.
Yet he left no doubt he was in charge.
"Coaches, back 15!" he yelled, sending longtime NFL assistant and Gibbs holdover Joe Bugel scurrying backward. Bugel was on the verge of violating one of Zorn's rules: All coaches must stand 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage for every play.
"It gives the players a sense that they're actually out on the field by themselves. And it gives the coaches a full view of the whole play. And it's also a safety issue," said Zorn, who recalled how he knocked over a tight end coach while scrambling out of the pocket during a practice back in his playing days as a Seattle Seahawks quarterback.
Zorn didn't dress the part of a head coach. He was barely noticeable during the first 20 minutes of the morning session, blending into the background in a burgundy shirt and gray pants. He switched to a white shirt for the afternoon session but left it untucked. He could have passed for a casual observer as he watched assistant Danny Smith bark out orders during special teams drills.
But, after Springs' lateral during the afternoon practice, it was Zorn doing the barking.
"We have that right to have the ball with a great interception, a great moment really," Zorn said, "and then to kind of throw it away? Yeah, then I get upset about that."
There were other quirks new to the players and owner Dan Snyder, who sat watching the morning session in the warm sun wearing a tie and chatting with friend and retired anchorman Bernard Shaw. Zorn broke out a net with three colored targets -- burgundy, gold and black -- and would yell out one of the colors as the quarterbacks dropped back to pass, a good test to see if they could adjust on the fly and hit the right color with the throw.
It was another idea from his seven years as a Seahawks quarterbacks coach, except that the colors in Seattle were green, blue and silver.
"It creates a little bit of fun," said Zorn, who in Seattle was also known for bringing a Slip 'n Slide to practice to teach his quarterbacks how to slide in open field.
Zorn said he had no butterflies as the morning practice ended, but he confessed to waking at 5:45 a.m. for his big day.
"I couldn't sleep, I was so excited about being here," Zorn said, "so I was in to work about 6:15."
His first speech to the entire team include a mini-bio of himself. He also emphasized teamwork and unselfishness and the importance of upholding the traditions of the history-rich franchise. Zorn is also the first Redskins coach since Jack Pardee to have the rookies don blank helmets -- they have to make the final roster at the end of training camp to earn the right to wear the Indian-head logo.
The first practice went smoothly, especially considering that Zorn and his staff were scrambling over the last few days to complete a play book that would get them through the five sessions of the three-day minicamp. The second practice was more ragged as new plays were installed.
"It was cleaner and faster, but it was more up-tempo," running back Clinton Portis said of Zorn's overall approach. "You are going to get your work done, it's just you're going to get it done at a faster pace."
Zorn spoke of his new responsibilities, including the realization that he's now the one who is "going to be held accountable for the product we put on that field." It's quite a change of pace from his years as a quarterbacks coach.
"There was a different feel," Zorn said. "Usually as a position coach, you're concerned about your area. Being the head coach, I found myself praising the DBs for making an interception, which, as an offensive coach, you're thinking, 'What am I doing?"'
Notes: Zorn revealed that sixth-round draft pick Kareem Moore, a safety from Nicholls State, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this week and will likely miss part of training camp. ... QB Colt Brennan, the sixth-round selection from Hawaii, was on the field but didn't take part in any drills as he continues to recover from hip surgery. "We're going to hold him out now," Zorn said. "He's not ready. He's antsy. We had to tell him four or five times, 'You're not throwing today."' ... Three other players were unable to participate because of injuries. CB Carlos Rogers and LB Rocky McIntosh are recovering from major knee surgeries, while TE Tyler Ecker again has a pulled groin. Ecker missed all of last season with a groin injury. ... RB Ladell Betts twisted his ankle after catching a pass in the afternoon practice but said he would be fine.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved