Thirty minutes after his first practice with the Washington Redskins ended, Irving Fryar remained on the field, getting a crash course on the offense.
Working with passing game coordinator Terry Robiskie and backup quarterback John Paci, the five-time Pro Bowl receiver learned when to cut inside and when to hitch-and-go.
"The numbering system is a little bit different," Fryar said. "It's not hard to pick up. Plus, when it boils down to it, it's just playing football."
If Fryar has it down pat by opening day, he'll have mastered something that still escapes fifth-year Redskins veteran Michael Westbrook: the ability to consistently run the pass routes correctly. Westbrook messed up a pattern in the end zone during Friday night's exhibition victory over Buffalo.
Fryar, who turns 37 next month, was coaxed out of retirement to sign with the Redskins on Thursday. His first practice was Saturday, and he will probably see some limited action in Saturday night's game at Pittsburgh.
"I'm not in great shape," Fryar said. "I'm in a little bit of shape. I was retired."
Fryar initially will work as a third-down receiver, although many more gaffes by Westbrook and Albert Connell could land him back in the starting role he's used to after 15 seasons with New England, Miami and Philadelphia.
"With that kind of experience, he ought to be ready to play tomorrow," Robiskie said. "He's been playing 15 years. He knows every route."
Immediately after Fryar signed, he said his final season with the Eagles was the worst year of his life. That seemed a bit of an exaggeration given his life story, but the troubled star-turned-preacher insists it's true.
"Honestly, last year was the worst year of my life," Fryar said. "And I'm talking about having been on drugs and almost losing my family, being in jail and all that kind of stuff. None of those can amount to what I went through last year. My intention is to come in here and help this team, but No. 1 my intention is to come in here and have fun. Because I left the game really, really bitter last year."
Although reluctant to go into detail, Fryar said the losing atmosphere with the 3-13 Eagles combined with some personal matters
some football-related and some not to leave him feeling betrayed.
"The only thing good that came out of last year was that I made it through another year alive," Fryar said.
Fryar offered one example: When his 13-year-old son dropped a pass in a community league game, a fan yelled: "You're just like your Daddy."
"That's totally unalled for," Fryar said. "If I go over and say something to him, I'm the bad guy. Little things like that we had to deal with because the team wasn't doing well."
With the Eagles planning to release him, Fryar decided to retire rather than move his wife and four children yet again to play for another team. He was working for a television station in Philadelphia when the Redskins called, and he accepted because Washington is two hours away from his home in Mount Holly, N.J. While playing for Washington, he'll stay at a local hotel.
"I feel good already," Fryar said. "It just feels good to be wanted."
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed