- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Former Baltimore Ravens quarterback Tony Banks, released by the Dallas Cowboys yesterday, is the leading candidate to become the Washington Redskins' backup.

The Redskins opted not to sign quarterback Danny Kanell after a workout yesterday so they could pursue Banks. Banks could work out for the team as soon as today, but as of last night nothing was scheduled.

Third-stringer Sage Rosenfels will start against the Atlanta Falcons on Friday because of injuries to starter Jeff George (shoulder) and backup Todd Husak (rib). Rookie free agent Mike Watkins will play the fourth quarter with coach Marty Schottenheimer all but ruling out Husak.

Saying he didn't want a "revolving door" on quarterbacks, Schottenheimer said he would "probably" sign a passer. Schottenheimer wants more than a stopgap player who would be cut at preseason's end. That will be especially vital if George's shoulder tendinitis, which is already expected to keep him out until the preseason finale at New England on Aug. 30, remains an ongoing problem. Kanell is a possible fallback, especially since other teams are expected to compete for Banks' services.

"If we bring somebody in, I want them to have a legitimate opportunity to compete to be on the team," Schottenheimer said.

Banks was released by Dallas after two mediocre preseason games. Benched by Baltimore last year after a season and a half, Banks also played with the St. Louis Rams from 1996 to 1998. Redskins quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer spent 1997 in St. Louis as an offensive assistant. Banks bitterly disputed the notion that he wasn't better than the Cowboys' two young quarterback prospects rookie Quincy Carter, the new starter, and second-year player Anthony Wright when he departed Dallas' training camp. He said the team's "agenda" made him an unpopular choice.

Husak said he wouldn't feel threatened by a newcomer. However, team sources said Rosenfels is locked in as the No. 3 quarterback, so Husak would be the one to face any challenger. Schottenheimer said it was improbable that he'll keep four quarterbacks.

"I understand that they're going to do it, but I can't let it affect me," Husak said. "Being mentally tough is being able to focus when things aren't always easy. I've dealt with this kind of thing before in college, so it's nothing new."

Husak completed only three of 10 passes for 27 yards with one interception that left him with a 0.00 passer rating in the 20-0 loss to Kansas City on Sunday. Husak was regularly pressured, but three times failed to complete passes to an open Michael Westbrook.

"Watching the film, I actually threw the ball pretty well," Husak said. "I know it didn't look like it, but we had some miscommunications out there on the field; receivers and I weren't on the same page all the time."

Husak threw only two soft passes in practice yesterday. Schottenheimer said Husak wasn't supposed to throw at all in order to avoid further injury and was yanked when Schottenheimer noticed. George, after 10 days of inactivity, begins limited throwing today. Schottenheimer was conservative about George's return, saying he didn't want the veteran quarterback to develop bad habits while compensating for the injury. George hopes to play against Cleveland on Aug. 24, but the New England game is more realistic.

"As long as I'm on top of it mentally, I'll be ready," George said. "I feel good. My arm feels strong."

Rosenfels completed only seven of 17 for 41 yards against Kansas City, including a 28-yarder to Darnerien McCants. After facing the Chiefs' reserves in the second half, he gets to meet the Falcons' starters.

"An attribute of a good player is one who improves from his first to second game," Rosenfels said. "I'm hoping to improve from what happened Sunday. I was pretty nervous, my first time in the big leagues."

Schottenheimer called Rosenfels "a very interesting prospect," but said that too much shouldn't be expected.

"All young players have to go through a learning process, and it can be painful," Schottenheimer said. "Sage has a very good understanding on a blackboard, on an overhead [projector] or on paper of what to do. The minute it starts to go faster, it's different. As hard as we work, you cannot create the speed the game is played."

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