- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2000

GREELEY, Colo. The scenarios seem very similar. He has joined a team with a talented but unproven second-year rival for the starting job and an offense-minded coach with Super Bowl experience.

However, both his real estate decision and the tone of his voice say that quarterback Gus Frerotte believes he's home again, 18 months after his tumultuous five seasons in Washington ended with his release just halfway through his four-year, $18 million contract. After a year as renters in Detroit, Frerotte and his family bought a house in suburban Denver even though he is signed only through this season.

"I miss all the guys in Detroit, and I liked coach [Bobby] Ross, but there were three main reasons why Denver was more attractive to me than re-signing with Detroit," said Frerotte, who started six games plus the wild-card playoff loss to the Redskins for the Lions in place of injured Charlie Batch in 1999. "The Lions told me I wouldn't have a chance to start. The Broncos told me I would get a chance to compete for the job.

"Number two, I wanted to learn the West Coast offense. And third, the Broncos still have a lot of players here from their Super Bowl years [1997 and 1998], and they have a chance to go back. We had a couple of years in Washington where we almost made the playoffs, and we got there last year in Detroit, but the attitude's just different out here. They expect to win."

Although Denver coach Mike Shanahan shocked even his players by benching veteran Bubby Brister for rookie Brian Griese just before last year's opener, another such switch isn't expected with Griese now No. 1.

"We have put a lot of pressure on Gus mentally, and he has responded," Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. "I really like his attention to what he's doing. Brian's having a fantastic camp, and Gus is one of the reasons why. Right now, Brian's the starter, but Gus has won in this league, he has a great arm and he's big enough to stand in there and take the licks in the pocket.

"When you have been a starter in this league and you become a backup, people want to see how you respond. Do you just try to get by or do you push to get back to being a starter? You can see that Gus wants to be a starter again. He did a hell of a job for Detroit last year, and he's a quality person. It was a no-brainer for us to sign Gus."

Characteristically, Frerotte laughed off the idea of a quarterback controversy, which the Denver media expected to bloom.

"I have been through a heck of a lot over my seven years in the league, so nothing fazes me," said the 29-year-old Frerotte, who went from hero to zero in Washington in less than a year. "I've learned a lot over the years, and it definitely humbles you. I've never really been in a comfort zone, even the year [1997] that I was coming off the Pro Bowl. Even when I was taking all the first-team reps, I always felt I had to keep pushing.

"[The local media] will try to get me to say something wrong [about Griese]. But I'm ahead of the game. I have been through this before [in 1996, when he beat out the favored Heath Shuler in Washington]. They're not going to get me to say anything.

"I'm in the best shape I've been in in years. I'm down to 222 pounds. I have more game experience than Brian does, but he has the advantage because he has been in the system for two years and I'm still learning it. It seems the only thing I can do with the way things are going is push Brian and be ready if he falters at all, especially as the season goes on. I have over-achieved for a seventh-round pick, but I don't want to be a backup for the rest of my career. I want to get back to starting."

Frerotte hasn't done so regularly since breaking his hip Nov. 30, 1997, a week after he suffered a concussion by infamously head-butting a wall at then-Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.

"I want to go deep into the playoffs and get to the Super Bowl," Frerotte said. "That's my goal, and I believe I can do that. I don't compare myself to Kurt Warner [the quarterback who went from unknown to Super Bowl MVP last season]. I relate more to guys like [Carolina's] Steve Beuerlein and [Oakland's] Rich Gannon, who made the Pro Bowl last year after years of moving around and waiting for the right opportunity."

Frerotte's first opportunity for Denver comes tomorrow with the second team in the preseason opener at Arizona.

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