- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

The music stopped in the Washington Redskins' version of musical chairs yesterday. Coach Steve Spurrier completed his fourth quarterback switch of the season, naming Danny Wuerffel the starter for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams.
Wuerffel replaces Shane Matthews, who completed less than 50 percent of his passes in each of the past three games. Washington's offense has dropped to 26th in the league as the club has lost two in a row to reach the brink of playoff elimination.
The job now is Wuerffel's to lose. Spurrier dismissed a comment he made Monday that Wuerffel and rookie Patrick Ramsey each might play a half.
"It's his game," Spurrier said yesterday. "We were just making conversation about the halves deal. Danny deserves a chance to play. He's our quarterback and away we go. Patrick will be the second guy in line."
The coach reiterated that he simply is trying to find the best option among three quarterbacks who have, in his mind, fairly similar chances to be successful.
"I know a lot of people like to make conversation about it, but when you've got a group of quarterbacks where there's not a lot of difference in how they play, to me you have to give them all a chance," Spurrier said. "Danny really has not had a chance to play."
Wuerffel's lone start came Oct.6 at Tennessee, when he suffered a strained shoulder on the first series. Ramsey relieved him and led Washington to an impressive 31-14 win, but the Redskins lost their next two behind Ramsey and Spurrier went back to Matthews.
Wuerffel, who has a team-low 34.5 passer's rating, now believes his shoulder is healthy enough not to be an issue.
"I'm as healthy as I can be," Wuerffel said. "I feel good about it. I practiced last week and made most of my throws. So I'm excited. I'm going to proceed as though it's not an issue."
As Spurrier looked ahead to "some day" when he has a "set team" that isn't undergoing constant personnel switches, his former Heisman Trophy winner at Florida said the moves aren't being made haphazardly.
"Some people think that, but it's not the case," Wuerffel said. "Whenever somebody was clearly established as the quarterback, he stuck with them. Shane was that quarterback in college. I had it the last few years of my career. It's just something that you do when you're trying to find who that guy is. He's just trying to see what we can do at this level."
Albright not to blame
Spurrier tried to defuse one of this week's controversies by saying he didn't single out long snapper Ethan Albright after the missed 42-yard field goal in the closing minutes of Sunday's loss.
The coach had an animated conversation with Albright after the play, asking the player whether he knew he could ask for another ball. The ball was wet because of heavy rain, and the kick was missed because kicker James Tuthill slipped. However, Spurrier mentioned only Albright during his postgame news conference, a move that raised eyebrows among players.
"Single him out? I just asked him what the ball was like," Spurrier said yesterday. "I wasn't chewing him out. He told me he didn't know he could get a new one. I'm not singling him out. I'm just asking him a question. You think I'm chewing him out? Ethan had a good snap. You're trying to read something into nothing."
The team's recent slide has brought questions about Spurrier among his players and criticism from outside the club. But he said he can handle it.
"That always happens when you lose," Spurrier said. "It's not the first criticism that I've had, nor the last. If you're a coach that can't take criticism when you lose, you need not to be a coach in any sport. That's the way life is. I can handle it whatever it is, but we're going to carry on trying to do what we think is best for the Redskins. That's the only thing we can concern ourselves with."
Players' issues with coaches continue to emerge. Defensive tackle Daryl Gardener, asked whether the players need to improve or the coaches need to put them in better situations, replied cryptically.
"Now why are you going to ask me a question like that, put me on the spot?" Gardener said. "You know good and well. I guess it would sound better coming out of my mouth, wouldn't it? You answer that one."
Covering one receiver
The Redskins appear likely to use their cornerbacks to follow certain Rams wide receivers, repeating a tactic defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis used for the first time Sunday against the Giants.
"You can see who I got," cornerback Fred Smoot said, pointing to a No. 81 tape in his locker. "I've got Torry Holt. Champ's got Isaac Bruce. Darrell's got Ricky Proehl. I love it like this."
Lewis, however, declined comment, and other players wouldn't confirm what Smoot said. And regardless, last week Lewis mixed in other coverages while often using Champ Bailey on the Giants' Amani Toomer. Bailey finished with seven passes defensed, almost as many as he had all year up that point (nine).
Injury update
Tight end Walter Rasby missed practice with a strained abdomen and called himself "50-50" for the Rams game. But he said he was feeling significantly better.
"The way I felt on Monday, I thought I'd be out for the rest of the season," Rasby said. "That's how bad it hurt. But it's progressing."
Punter Bryan Barker was able to kick "about 40 balls" in practice and was optimistic that he'll be able to play, meaning the Redskins probably won't have to promote newly signed Craig Jarrett from the practice squad. Like Rasby, Barker said he was feeling a lot better than on Monday.
Guard Brenden Stai practiced for the first time since being sidelined in mid-October with tendinitis in his knee. Stai said his knee is "definitely on its way to getting better" and hoped that he won't have any setbacks when he wakes up today.


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