- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 1, 2004

On a day full of “oohs” and “aahs” emanating from the assembled throng of fans, perhaps the loudest reaction at the Washington Redskins training camp came when Patrick Ramsey tried to thread a pass over the middle and was intercepted by Matt Bowen.

It was only an hour into the first practice of the 2004 season, yet the way the crowd responded, it was easy to think Ramsey had just lost the quarterback battle to Mark Brunell.

Of course, that’s not the case. No coach in NFL history has picked a starting quarterback based on one practice, and Joe Gibbs certainly had no intentions of naming his yesterday.

“We’re just starting. It’s going to take a long time,” he said. “The most important thing will be the [preseason] games. Everything’s important, but this will be a long, long process.”

If fans, media members, coaches or Redskins players were trying to gauge who has the early advantage between Brunell and Ramsey, they weren’t given much material to work with yesterday. The two shared equal time under center during both the morning and afternoon sessions, though Brunell got the bulk of snaps with the first-string offense.

Neither Ramsey, the 25-year-old incumbent, nor Brunell, the 33-year-old veteran signed during the offseason to a seven-year, $43million contract, looked in midseason form during the first full-contact practice of the season. Brunell completed four of nine passes during the morning 9-on-9 drill; Ramsey was 3-for-6, including the Bowen interception.

Both had occasional difficulties pulling off clean snaps from center, making for a somewhat choppy day as a total of about 10,000 spectators watched the two sessions.

“First day in pads, it felt a little awkward,” said Brunell, an eight-year starter in Jacksonville before losing his job to rookie Byron Leftwich last season. “Everyone has to get used to wearing shoulder pads and hitting. It may take a couple days, but we’ve been doing this for a long time, so it won’t take long to get into a rhythm and get things going.”

Yesterday marked the first time Ramsey had faced a full-contact defense in pads since he was placed on injured reserve last December with an injured right foot. The third-year quarterback has fully healed from the bone bruise that knocked him out of the final five games of the 2003 season, but he acknowledged he might be a little rusty.

“You know, we’ve been full speed in minicamps and coaching sessions and this past passing camp, but at the same time it’s a whole different level,” Ramsey said. “I don’t think it’s going to take long. We’ll be fine.”

Given the pressure of returning from an injury, plus the perception he has little chance of beating out Brunell, Ramsey easily might have treated every play as if his life depended on it.

He is determined, though, not to let himself think that way, especially after one bad pass or one missed read.

“You do that in a game and you’re dead,” Ramsey said. “You can’t worry about that. You just go out there, complete the next pass and move on. That’s the last thing you want to do, let it affect you.”

If there is any perceived tension between the two quarterbacks, they are doing their best to hide it. Each has raved about the other, and they have become close friends in a short time.

“There’s absolutely no reason why two quarterbacks can’t get along and help each other, and that’s what we’ve found,” Brunell said. “Patrick’s a great guy, on the field and more importantly off the field. I anticipate our relationship will only get closer.”

Said Ramsey: “I think that’s the primary factor in all of this. We both want to have a good relationship, regardless of the final outcome, and I think we will.”

That said, neither seems particularly excited about the prospects of starting the season on the bench.

Brunell had plenty of experience holding a clipboard last year with the Jaguars after his late-September elbow injury opened the door for Leftwich to take over. Brunell, the franchise’s marquee player since the day it was founded in 1995, held his tongue and didn’t lash out at the Jacksonville organization, but he did make it clear he wanted a chance to revive his career elsewhere.

Asked yesterday whether he would be able to deal with life as a backup quarterback, the veteran replied somewhat sarcastically.

“I was real good at it last year,” Brunell snapped, adding: “If I had to, I’d do it again.”

Ramsey, meanwhile, stated in no uncertain terms his desire to retain his status as a starting NFL quarterback, even if it doesn’t happen overnight.

“It’s important to me to win the job,” he said. “But I think regardless of what happens, I’m going to be a good quarterback in this league. I think I’m going to be successful, whether it’s this year, next year, the following year, whenever.”

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