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The Patrick puzzle

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The thing that surprises Patrick Ramsey three months later is how quickly everything happened.

Twenty-six plays.

Sixteen minutes.

Eleven pass attempts.

One illegal hit to the head.

And then it was over.

Just like that, after starting the final seven games of last season, spending the entire offseason learning the nuances of the offense and playing with the first string the entire preseason, Ramsey was back where he started when Joe Gibbs returned to the Washington Redskins -- watching Mark Brunell play quarterback.

"It seems like a long time ago, not only for me but for this team," Ramsey said of the Redskins' opener against Chicago on Sept.11. "It's been a roller-coaster ride."

A roller-coaster ride with highs and lows for Brunell and the offense? Totally. But for Ramsey? Hardly. But ever the good teammate, Ramsey has shied away from negative public comments after losing his starting job to Brunell.

Two frustrating seasons and the arrival of Jason Campbell make a decision on Ramsey obvious during the offseason.

"That will be something we'll certainly sit down with Patrick and discuss -- but when the year is over. Now isn't the time," Gibbs said last week. "I think he's certainly a really talented guy that has a lot to offer. The way things have worked out here, it's been wild. You don't plan on it."

At 25, Ramsey may attract some interest, but his value probably has diminished. He was battered because of Steve Spurrier's pass-protection-is-optional philosophy in 2002 and 2003 and was never really given a chance by Gibbs, who made trading for Brunell one of his first major moves and then traded the Redskins' first-round draft choice in 2006 to select Campbell in the spring.

"I think they might be able to get a mid-round pick for him because he's been in the league and done some things and he's not that old," an AFC scout said.

Ramsey hasn't yet focused his thoughts on where he will be next year. He will be preparing for Sunday's game against Dallas as if he were still the starter.

"You sometimes think about it, but at the same time I'm keeping myself busy," he said. "It's the future, and there's nothing I can do about it right now because there are so many different variables that need to be assessed. Everybody sees what happens in the NFL. Guys have huge years, and guys come out of nowhere the next year. I don't know if I'm going to be here or somewhere else."

Ramsey has 24 career starts but only eight in the last two years. His confidence remains high despite the several no-confidence votes from the Redskins.

"I feel good about my ability to play this game," he said.

Demotion hurts

Ramsey entered the Cincinnati game last year and started the final seven contests, posting a 3-4 record that included eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Two days after the Redskins won at San Francisco on Dec.18, Gibbs said Ramsey would begin 2005 as the starter.

Ramsey started all four preseason games and struggled moving the first-team offense with the exception of a drive against Pittsburgh. Even though Brunell was impressive, Ramsey remained Gibbs' guy.

Against Chicago in the opener, Ramsey's second pass was intercepted, he fumbled during the offense's second possession (the Redskins recovered) and was knocked out of the game by Lance Briggs' clothesline-like blow on the third series. Though he was ready to re-enter by halftime, Ramsey was told Brunell would stay in. The next day, Gibbs told Ramsey he was back on the bench.

"It took a couple weeks [to get over]," Ramsey said. "The last thing I wanted to do, if something happened to Mark and I had the opportunity to play, was do badly because I was still worried about what happened before. ... I wanted the opportunity to play, but it was never [a case of], 'Poor me -- why me?'"

Said right tackle Jon Jansen, a close friend of Ramsey's: "It's tough, whether you're the quarterback and at a high-profile position or the 53rd man on the roster, whenever you get news you're not expecting or that you don't think is right. It's upsetting. He did a great job of not only dealing with it personally but with everybody else."

The quarterback issue became moot when Brunell threw two late touchdown passes to Santana Moss to beat Dallas, followed by a four-game stretch in which he had 10 touchdowns and one interception. Ramsey's only action since the Chicago game came in mop-up duty against San Francisco and the New York Giants in Weeks 7 and 8.

"I've told him that I'm not sure anybody could have handled it any better," Gibbs said. "He's been absolutely great. I told him the week of the [first] Dallas game, the night before, that I appreciated the way he was handling it. It's really an unusual thing because that could have been a disruption for the team."

Trade him or keep him?

Although various reports indicated Ramsey requested a trade during his meeting with Gibbs, both debunked that. In the offseason, Gibbs was quick to jettison receivers Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner after they expressed a desire to be moved. Coles was dealt for Moss in early March, and Gardner was not invited to participate in any offseason activities before he was traded to Carolina during the summer.

Quarterbacks are different than receivers, though. If Ramsey asks for a trade or the team decides to shop him, the Redskins first have to evaluate several factors. Can Brunell, who will be 36 next September, be effective enough and stay fit enough to play another season as the starter. Can rookie Jason Campbell serve as a capable No.2? And can Ramsey generate enough interest to make a trade worthwhile?

At least eight teams could have quarterback issues to resolve: Arizona, Baltimore, Buffalo, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, the New York Jets and Oakland. The only current starters who will be unrestricted free agents are Arizona's Kurt Warner and San Diego's Drew Brees. Otherwise, the pickings are slim -- Sage Rosenfels, Jon Kitna, Damon Huard, Jeff Garcia -- and that could help Ramsey get a chance.

Teams remain impressed with Ramsey's arm strength and toughness. He is 475-for-854 for 5,545 yards, 33 touchdowns and 29 interceptions and has a 74.2 passer rating in 33 games. As a starter, he is 10-14.

"I think Ramsey's got some skills, but we didn't write him up as anything spectacular," the AFC scout said. "He can definitely play in this league, but nobody will go out and get him and say, 'You're the guy.' He'll be brought in as somebody that will compete with another player for the job."

Ramsey is due to make around $2.8million next year in the final season of his five-year rookie contract, so teams interested in dealing, say a fifth-round pick, wouldn't be making a substantial monetary commitment. The scout said if Ramsey is traded, the Redskins would have to sign a veteran backup because Campbell has "got a long way to go."

"You never know where you're going to end up," Ramsey said. "I'll focus on it heavily when that times comes. It's not my decision. It's the decision of the guys here and how they're going to do it, I don't really know. That being said, I don't know that I'm not going to be here."

Jansen said Ramsey is motivated to "move on from [the demotion], and he's working to prove to the critics, coaching staff and whoever it might be that he's improving and can be the guy who is a starting quarterback.

"I think he's good enough to start in the NFL, and I hope it's here," Jansen added. "But I also hope it's where it's best for Patrick."

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