NEW YORK — For seven months, Washington fans have anticipated the opening of Joe Gibbs' first training camp in 12 years as coach of the Redskins.

Too bad they won't get to see much of it.

The Redskins open training camp next Saturday at their home training base in Ashburn, Va., one of 32 camps that start in the next 10 days. Denver, Chicago, Carolina and St. Louis begin the process Tuesday.

But Redskins fans, who have waited for this week since their Hall of Fame coach was rehired in January, might not get to see much. While most teams encourage their supporters to attend drills, the new/old coach probably will restrict fan access.

"I don't care if you're taking a test or what you're doing," Gibbs says. "If there's things walking around, and people talking, good-looking girls walking up and down the sidelines and everything, then generally what people do is: 'I'd rather look over there than look out here.' So that's a problem — distractions."

Despite the return of Gibbs and owner Daniel Snyder's annual signing flurry, Washington isn't the favorite in the NFC East.

That designation goes to Philadelphia, losers of three straight conference title games. The Eagles have added pass rusher Jevon Kearse and Terrell Owens, the standout wide receiver they desperately needed. Still, that guarantees little in this era of parity, especially with potential locker room problems after the departure of cornerback and team leader Troy Vincent to Buffalo and the addition of the tempestuous and moody Owens.

The overall Super Bowl favorite might again be New England, which could equal the mark of the 1992-95 Cowboys with three titles in four years.

Despite a recent history of teams coming from nowhere — from the Rams in '99 to Carolina last season — the Patriots seem to be as solid as last year, when they won their second Super Bowl in three years by beating the Panthers 32-29 in the final seconds.

New England also could break Miami's 31-year-old modern record of 18 straight victories. If the Patriots win their first three games, they'll go for No. 19 against the Dolphins in Foxboro, Mass., on Oct. 10.

The 63-year-old Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls and reached a fourth during his tour in Washington from 1981-92, is one of seven new coaches.

The "newcomers" include three other retreads — Tom Coughlin (formerly of Jacksonville) with the New York Giants, Norv Turner (Washington) in Oakland, and Dennis Green (Minnesota) in Arizona. Green and Lovie Smith, the former St. Louis defensive coordinator who took over the Bears, bring the number of black head coaches in the NFL to five, most ever.

There was a lot of player movement, too.

Owens, Kearse and Vincent are among the many Pro Bowl-caliber players who changed uniforms. The Giants alone signed 18 free agents after a slide to 4-12 in a season they were supposed to challenge for a title.

Big-time quarterbacks also have been shuffled, moves set off in part by the Giants' trade for Eli Manning, brother of Peyton, the league's co-MVP with Indianapolis last season.

That led to the release for salary cap reasons of Kerry Collins, who quarterbacked the Giants to the 2001 Super Bowl.

Collins was replaced by Kurt Warner, the 1999 and 2001 league MVP and the MVP of the 2000 Super Bowl. He was released by St. Louis and gives the Giants an experienced QB to start if Manning isn't ready to take a pounding behind what could be a shaky offensive line.

Collins landed in Oakland, where his size and strong arm make him the perfect quarterback for the "vertical offense" that owner Al Davis has always favored. Turner says 38-year-old incumbent Rich Gannon, who missed nine games last season with injury, is the starter, but that could change.

Tim Couch has moved, too.

The No. 1 overall pick when Cleveland returned to the NFL in 1999, Couch was released by the Browns and signed with Green Bay as Brett Favre's backup. Jeff Garcia left San Francisco and signed with the Browns, a team seemingly in disarray.

The first order of business for most teams this week will be signing their first-round picks.

Manning's deal with the Giants will set the standard, at least for the four first-round quarterbacks. The others are San Diego's Philip Rivers, taken fourth by New York and traded to the Chargers for Manning; Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, 11th overall; and Buffalo's J.P. Losman, 22nd.

Few GMs seem worried.

"I learned my attitude toward negotiations from George," says Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, referring to his predecessor, the late George Young. "Nothing ever gets done until Bastille Day."

For those unfamiliar with the French Revolution, Bastille Day is July 14.

But things are later now. The regular season doesn't begin until Sept. 9, when Indianapolis visits New England in a reprise of last season's AFC title game, and the first full Sunday isn't until Sept. 12, the latest opening Sunday for the NFL since 1987.

Signings could be slow in a few cases: Washington announced it wouldn't draft Kellen Winslow Jr. because he is represented by Carl and Kevin Poston, known for holding out their players. So Winslow was taken by Cleveland. The Postons also represent two other first-rounders: wide receiver Reggie Williams of Jacksonville, and cornerback Chris Gamble of Carolina.

Rivers probably will wait to see what Manning gets and he could be out for a while — the Chargers (as Cincinnati used to be) are notoriously penurious.

But Tom Condon, Manning's agent, got Peyton into camp relatively quickly when he was the No. 1 overall pick; Accorsi says he will pay Eli as a No. 1 overall pick, not a No. 4, and is talking with Condon, with whom he's worked well in the past.

So expect most rookies to show up pretty quickly.

"Last year was one of the quickest signing seasons we've had, and I think this one will be the same," says Roethlisberger's agent, Leigh Steinberg, whose first client was Steve Bartkowski, the top overall choice in 1975. "The way the system is set up now, you know just about what your player will get. You just have to work out the details."