- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

The gorgeous weather yesterday wasn’t responsible for Patrick Ramsey’s sunny outlook on his career with the Washington Redskins.

Last April, Ramsey was still recovering from foot surgery, had lost his starting job to Mark Brunell and didn’t know the new coaches or their offense. Today Ramsey is healthy, the Redskins’ unquestioned No. 1 quarterback and well-versed in coach Joe Gibbs’ system.

“It gives you a different mind-set,” Ramsey said after a workout at Redskin Park. “I don’t think in any way it’s a situation where I don’t need to continue to earn it, continue to improve. I want this to be a big year, not only for myself but more importantly for this team, this organization.”

After a relaxing 10 weeks hunting, fishing and hanging out with family back home in Louisiana, Ramsey returned to Washington on March 21 for the start of offseason work.

“Hopefully, I can make a bigger jump [than between his rookie and second years] because I’ve had three seasons to develop,” Ramsey said. “You see the game. You kind of can anticipate a blitz or where it’s coming from. You know how to study film. You know how to react in a ballgame.”

The Redskins were just 3-4 after Ramsey regained his job from Brunell in November, but three of the losses were to NFC champion Philadelphia and AFC runner-up Pittsburgh. Ramsey connected on 65 percent of his passes for 1,313 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions and proved to Gibbs that he should be the man in 2005.

“Patrick made a statement [in his first two starts against the Eagles and Steelers on the road] that he was kind of solid,” Gibbs said recently. “Then we started playing better, and he had some very good games. A young guy like that needs to continue to improve and take off.”

While surprised by the trade of top receiver Laveranues Coles and the likely departure of No. 2 wideout Rod Gardner, Ramsey believes that this indeed is his year to take off though he must adapt to new receivers Santana Moss and David Patten, new center Casey Rabach and new quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave.

Ramsey is already throwing to Patten — Moss is not practicing yet at Redskin Park — and working on improving his less than scintillating footwork with Musgrave, an NFL quarterback as recently as 1996. Last year’s quarterbacks coach, Jack Burns, didn’t play the position, never played in the league and at 57 was less of a natural fit for Ramsey than Musgrave, 37.

“This is a key year for Patrick,” said offensive tackle Jon Jansen, Ramsey’s closest friend on the team. “It’s time for him to really take some big steps forward. It’s easy now because nobody’s flying around, but when we get out there in minicamp and training camp, he’s got to be able to do it when the bullets are flying.”

Ramsey must show he has more assets than just the strong arm that made him Washington’s first-round pick in the 2002 draft and the toughness that enabled him to endure 13 sacks in his first two starts under former coach Steve Spurrier’s pass protection-be-hanged scheme in 2002.

“It’s unfortunate that Patrick had to take the beating he did his first couple of years,” Jansen said. “I think that set him back a little bit in terms of his confidence. You could see that he was starting to come out of that at the end of last year. No one here questions that Patrick can get it done.”

Of course, quarterback isn’t offensive tackle or receiver. The quarterback is expected to be the leader of the team.

“Patrick has to be the one when we get in the huddle before the first game to say, ‘This is our first step towards the playoffs,’ ” Jansen said. “He has to let the guys know he has the confidence that we’re going to win.”

Ramsey, who turned 26 on Feb. 14, welcomes that responsibility.

“It’s time for me to step up as a leader of this team,” Ramsey said. “There were times in my career that I have [done that], but I can be even more consistent. It’s like, ‘OK you’ve had three years to learn. Now it’s time go out there and do it.’ ”

Note — The Redskins signed linebacker Brian Allen. The 6-foot, 232-pounder broke in with St. Louis in 2001 and played the last three seasons for Carolina, primarily on special teams.

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