- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2001

CARLISLE, Pa. Washington Redskins wide receiver Willie Spencer got a step on the defensive back and cut toward the goal post. Quarterback Todd Husak spotted him and threw, but the ball sailed over the wideout's hands. Husak punched his fists in disgust.
A few plays later, Husak's spiral never had a chance to connect with Rod Gardner, thrown low and far behind the rookie receiver streaking into the right corner.
Finally Husak floated one into the back of the end zone to Derrius Thompson, who deftly dragged his feet in bounds to complete the well-timed play.
Mixing such stumbles and small victories in both practices yesterday, Husak continued to build toward his first professional start. The second-year quarterback will play the first half of Sunday's preseason opener at the Kansas City Chiefs while starter Jeff George rests his inflamed shoulder.
Husak's training camp has resembled the steeply rising and falling path of Route 94 as it runs through apple orchards toward Carlisle. At times he appears ready to be the Redskins' backup; at others he looks too erratic, particularly when there are questions about George's ability to get healthy.
"I think I've improved a lot in the past week," Husak said. "Everybody's going to go out and have bad days, and I've had two or three, maybe two or three bad practices. But I think the coaches look to see how I respond from those bad practices and bad throws. I think I've done a real good job of that."
Indeed, coach Marty Schottenheimer was impressed Friday when Husak battled through a poor morning session and returned for a sharp afternoon. To Schottenheimer, the errors won't end until the playbook is fully installed and Husak no longer consciously thinks about his reads and responsibilities.
"There's so much volume," Schottenheimer said. "Now what we begin to do is once it's installed, we turn around and go back. We start over and focus on what we're going to do [in a given game week]. So by Thursday and Friday of each week, they'll have an understanding of specifics of formations and plays that are going to be run, and then it begins to crystallize. Then that uncertainty [because of] the volume passes."
Husak earned the right to compete for the backup position by taking dramatic strides in the offseason's second minicamp. That period, immediately following the draft, came after a marginal quarterback school in March. Husak's momentum then continued through June's offseason practices before flagging somewhat here at training camp.
"What I see is some inconsistency at times in the accuracy of his throws," Schottenheimer said. "It has nothing to do with his arm; it's his feet. Accuracy in passing comes from balance, and balance is produced by your feet. And his feet get out of sync sometimes, and as a result the ball doesn't go where it needs to go."
Husak's performance Sunday will play a key role in his evaluation. He likely has two or three preseason games before veteran passers begin being released by other teams. In the meantime, George is expected to rest for about two weeks before re-testing his shoulder and getting an idea whether his tendinitis might linger until the Sept. 9 opener.
"At this point in time we have no reason to believe that it's going to be an extended period of time that Jeff won't be available," Schottenheimer said. "What we have to do right now is get the younger quarterbacks to develop consistency in their play. That's our responsibility as coaches."
There's no reason to think Husak can't master the mental aspect of his play. In addition to having run another variation of the West Coast offense at Stanford, Husak scored the highest of any player in his draft class on the Wonderlic exam, recording a 39.
Nonetheless, Husak's future with the club could be in jeopardy if he doesn't perform over the next few weeks, because the odds are that Schottenheimer will keep fourth-round draft pick Sage Rosenfels in the No. 3 (developmental) role.
"I can't put that pressure on myself," Husak said. "I've just got to go out and do the things I'm coached to do and do the things I do well. Whatever happens, happens. Nobody puts more pressure on me than myself. I strive for perfection."
In that manner, Husak doesn't seem to think Sunday's game is that big a deal.
"You know, I've started a few games," Husak said. "I know I haven't started a professional game before, but this isn't that new to me. It's a good opportunity for me. I'm looking forward to going out, moving the ball and putting some points up."

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