Donovan McNabb is proving why this Washington Redskins regular season will be different than in years past.

The quarterback invited a dozen teammates to his Arizona home for "Hell Week" to improve conditioning and chemistry under even worse weather conditions than in Ashburn. And several players actually joined him instead of chilling by the pool during the final free moments before training camp begins July 29.

McNabb is a leader and teammates responded from the moment he arrived in March. There's just some aura about the former rival that attracts fellow players.

The Redskins liked predecessor Jason Campbell just fine. He was a good guy. They respected him as a person, but as a leader Campbell just didn't have it. Running back Clinton Portis was denounced for saying so last season, but the truth came out. When times were tough, no one truly believed Campbell could win the game.

Maybe that was unfair. Campbell rarely had pass protection the last two seasons. He gave everything and was a fair performer. But no one thought Campbell could rally Washington to fourth-quarter comeback victories.

The players don't feel that way about McNabb and therein lies the difference in the coming season. Leaders take teams farther than they should go. They don't have to be the best players in the game, but they do have to inspire those around them. It works in military and civilian life, too.

Mark Rypien was a decent quarterback with a great team around him. He led the Redskins to the 1991 championship and was named Super Bowl MVP because teammates knew Rypien could win late.

Jeff George was a much better passer than Rypien -- not even close skills-wise. But teammates hated George so much in 2000 that no one came to his defense when he was dragged by the Dallas Cowboys after a sack. His linemen saw it and didn't care. If that happened to Rypien, the game would have been delayed 20 minutes for fighting and the entire offensive line would have been ejected.

The Redskins are far from a Super Bowl contender, but they can make the playoffs behind McNabb. He'll win a couple games Campbell wouldn't have won last year. Teammates believe it. Fans pray for it. Opponents know it.

In the desert, the Redskins know hope is rising.

Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more at and Twitter @Snide_Remarks or e-mail