- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

The Washington Redskins will have a three-man battle at quarterback unless rookie Patrick Ramsey makes surprisingly quick progress.
Sage Rosenfels, Danny Wuerffel and newly signed Shane Matthews are in an open competition ahead of Ramsey, the club's first-round draft pick. Dameyune Craig will be released soon.
"Right now, Sage Rosenfels is probably listed at the top, mainly because he was here last year," coach Steve Spurrier said yesterday. "If Patrick Ramsey comes around very quickly, he'll have a chance to compete also, but as you know it's hard to come in as a rookie and make an impact."
Matthews, who signed a one-year, $675,000 contract Monday, is expected to be the front-runner because of his experience both in the NFL and under Spurrier at Florida. The eight-year veteran, who turns 32 on June 1, has 15 professional starts, all in the past three seasons. Wuerffel is the only other Redskins passer with an NFL start; all six of his came before 1999.
Wuerffel also is a former Gators star under Spurrier, having won the Heisman Trophy in 1996. But the coach doesn't believe Matthews and Wuerffel have an advantage just because they know the system.
"Our system is always changing," Spurrier said, emphasizing that a starter won't be chosen until after preseason games. "It has changed quite a bit since the early '90s, and even the mid-'90s."
Although Ramsey currently lags, he is the only passer guaranteed a spot on the roster, according to Spurrier. The coach added that he will use the No.3 quarterback spot on a young player, meaning Ramsey or Rosenfels (a fourth-round pick in 2001) should end up there.
Ramsey has a chance to be No.1 or No.2 but has a lot of work to do. In last weekend's minicamp he struggled during limited action in team drills, his normally powerful throws losing touch and velocity when he had to think about his targets.
"Patrick will be here," Spurrier said. "He has tremendous talent. We'll see how he develops."
Washington signed Matthews after an erratic courtship. The club initially tried to trade a low-round pick to the Chicago Bears for him, but the Bears held out. The Redskins had lost interest by the time the price dropped to a swapping of low-round selections. And when Matthews finally was released last week, Spurrier said he wasn't interested.
But the Redskins' quarterbacks struggled to varying extents in minicamp. Wuerffel showed the most polish on the second day of practices, but the organization had doubts that he, Rosenfels, Craig or Ramsey could be a winner this year.
Spurrier, after speaking with other members of the front office, believed that Matthews had a better chance than Craig, and it costs Washington barely anything to swap Matthews and Craig on the salary cap. Both get the veteran reductions to $450,000 for their base salaries; Matthews counts an extra $25,000 for his signing bonus, the maximum allowable to qualify for the reduction.
Spurrier said he didn't need too much coaxing to pick up Matthews, explaining, "I just didn't want it to seem like I was the only one wanting to get my player from Florida. [Vice president of football operations] Joe Mendes, [owner Dan] Snyder, [executive] Pepper Rodgers they were all pushing in that direction."
Although Matthews is the most accomplished Redskins passer, he hasn't been an NFL regular. Spurrier believes Matthews' history of injuries contributed to his failure to keep Chicago's starting job in recent years. Now Matthews finally has bulked up, growing from 196 to 215 pounds.
"I was talking to him before I was coaching the Redskins, and I told him that he needed to work out more in the offseason," Spurrier said. "He hasn't been real diligent in the weight room. And he told me this offseason he took my advice and has been working out harder, like three times a week. If he can get himself in tip-top shape he'll be OK."
Note The club announced 102 finalists for the 70 greatest Redskins. Fans can vote on redskins.com to determine who ends up on the final list, to be announced June 3. Two of the finalists are active: current Redskins cornerback Darrell Green and Philadelphia Eagles returner/running back Brian Mitchell. Current Redskins except Green were ineligible.

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