- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2001

Washington Redskins quarterback Todd Husak isn't sidestepping his new role. The second-year passer spent yesterday learning new footwork to improve his balance when he drops back to pass.

The Redskins new West Coast offense will require quicker, high-percentage passes. Jeff George and Husak continued working on the basics at the ongoing quarterback school at Redskin Park. Husak was breaking some footwork habits from his rookie season, but the offense is quite similar to the one he ran at Stanford.

Husak may remain the Redskins' No. 2 quarterback even after a veteran is signed in June. He showed impressive decision-making ability during practices last year that will be needed for the revamped system.

"Quick reads, accurate throws are more my style," Husak said. "I like to go downfield, but I work well underneath [in a] high-percentage offense."

Husak was considered a long-term project when taken in the sixth round last year. The first Stanford quarterback to earn All-Pacific 10 honors since John Elway in 1982, Husak led the Cardinal to their first Rose Bowl in 28 years. Husak passed for more than 300 yards nine times and threw a then-conference record 159 passes without an interception.

Mostly, Husak plays a smart game. After all, he is known for his standout intelligence test results. Husak's 39 of 50 tied for the highest score among rookies last season. That's also higher than 98.6 percent of the public. No wonder Husak can find his options quickly under pressure. That he now has to learn a new offense for the second straight season seems simple.

"Most teams run the same plays," Husak said. "It's the terminology, protection, pass routes [that are different]."

The Redskins rewarded Husak for a season of working on the scout team by playing him in the final drive of the year. Husak completed two passes to fullback Larry Centers, which let the latter earn a $250,000 bonus for 81 catches. No matter they were for a combined six yards.

"I set a record for pass completion percentage," Husak said jokingly.

Husak knows he can solidify his No. 2 status with a strong effort in minicamps on March 31-April 1 and April 27-29. Maybe coach Marty Schottenheimer will notice the young passer's potential.

"I just prepare to play my best and try not to worry about the other stuff," Husak said. "Just control the things you can control. I'm confident in my abilities. I just want to play so bad because it's so much fun. I like practice, but nothing beats playing."

And if George falters in September, Husak won't be afraid to play.

"I'll be ready," he said. "Who knows what could happen?"

Meanwhile, linebacker Derek Smith has agreed to a five-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers, though the contract won't be signed until today. Linebacker Eddie Mason is expected to compete with Kevin Mitchell as Smith's successor.

"Whether I'm playing outside or in the middle or special teams, I'm going to do whatever helps the team win," Mason said. "The big thing right now is to get in shape and learn the defense."

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