ASHBURN, Va. — For the first five practice days of training camp, John Beck has enjoying having the Washington Redskins starting quarterback job all to himself, getting the first-team work while the team waited for Rex Grossman to re-sign and become eligible to take part.
On Wednesday, the fifth day of the solo run, Beck sported a new look, switching jerseys from No. 3 to No. 12.
A number change during camp usually isn't a big deal, especially for a player who hasn't been in a regular season game since 2007, but Beck is the type who doesn't mind telling a story from start to finish. Plus, his unexpected rise to contender for the No. 1 spot— and the extraordinary confidence that Mike Shanahan has expressed in him — has made Beck the most compelling story of camp.
So here's the condensed version of the tale behind the jersey. It started when Beck wore No. 14 in his first year of flag football because he worshipped Ty Detmer.
"First year of tackle football, my coach, I think he was a big Terry Bradshaw fan or something," Beck said. "He gave me 12 and I was, like, furious. I went home, just so mad. But I rode 12 the entire time through Pop Warner, junior high, high school and college."
Beck couldn't wear No. 12 after he was drafted by Miami because it belonged to Bob Griese and had been retired. He got it back when he went to Baltimore for a season and wanted it again when he joined the Redskins during training camp last year, but it already belonged to receiver Malcolm Kelly and there wasn't time to make the switch.
Everything's now been worked out. Kelly has switched to No. 14 — and he didn't even make Beck buy him lunch for it.
"I really don't think Malcolm liked his number. ... He told me it brought him injuries," said Beck, who, realizing what he had just said, then knocked the wood on the podium a couple of times.
Fans will relish such biographical tidbits if Beck wins the job and then wins some games. They'll quickly become irrelevant if he sits on the bench for yet another season.
If expectations seem unusually out of proportion, it's largely because of words spoken by the coaching staff. Shanahan opened camp by saying he's staking his reputation on Beck and Grossman. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said of Beck after the opening practice: "It's the first day out there — and I don't have to correct him on anything."
Kyle Shanahan then invoked some lofty names while talking about Beck's mindset.
"You look at all those top guys in the league. You start with (Tom) Brady, (Peyton) Manning, you go to (Drew) Brees and those other players, and tell me which one of those guys doesn't have an A-type personality and demands perfection," the offensive coordinator said. "Guys who are like that usually do."
Both Shanahans also pointed out that Beck's only regular season experience came late in the season as a rookie for a Miami team that went 1-15, hardly an ideal way to start a career.
Regardless, the results at practice have so far been inconclusive. Beck has had sessions when he's threaded the needle beautifully and others when he had trouble completing a single pass. His highlight Wednesday was a nice deep touchdown throw to Jabar Gaffney down the left side.
"It was good these past five days to get the majority of the reps," Beck said. "That's what I wanted. I wanted to come out, get the experience, make some mistakes here or there, chunk some balls down the field and see what we got, and that happened."
It's understandable that the practices have been ragged at times. There were no team-run offseason practices or conditioning programs, and signed free agents such as Grossman can't practice until there's a new labor agreement in place. Mike Shanahan scrapped his plans to run timed down-and-distance drills the first four days because he felt the players weren't in sufficient shape. Beck finally got to run the drill Tuesday.
Also, with Grossman not practicing — and with only a pair of undrafted rookie quarterbacks on hand to share the load — Beck was getting so much work that his arm was sore Tuesday. He said it was fine Wednesday, and Grossman is set to join the fray Thursday unless there's a delay caused by the labor talks.
Mike Shanahan said both quarterbacks will work with the first and second units in a competition that is expected to last until late in the preseason. Beck said he needs to "eliminate false movements" and become more fluid as he goes through his options in the pocket.
"He's done a good job. He's possessed," Kyle Shanahan said. "He's attacking this as hard as anyone could."
Notes: RB Ryan Torain injured his left hand during practice and was scheduled for X-rays. ... WR Brandon Banks sat out with a sore knee. ... LB Ryan Kerrigan remains limited with a bone bruise in his right knee. ... The Redskins still don't have a punter in camp because free agent signing Sav Rocca remains in Australia trying to get a visa. Rocca had to leave the United States during the lockout because he didn't have a job. Mike Shanahan said he hopes Rocca will be in camp by Monday. "Eventually they'll let him go. At least I hope they'll get him go," the coach said with a smile. "If not, I told him to get married to an American, and that'll make it easier."
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP