- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2002

The Washington Redskins still are looking for a quarterback.

Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said yesterday that Shane Matthews, after a three-game benching, would start at quarterback against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. However, it is not clear how long Matthews' latest starting assignment will last; Spurrier conceded yesterday that he still is looking for playmakers.

"When you have star players that play well every week, you don't have any shuffling to do. When you're trying to find out who your best players are, you've got to give them the best opportunity," Spurrier said. "We're six games in. We think we know a little bit about who our best players are. If the guy who is out there isn't getting it done the way you ask, then the next player gets his chance."

Matthews, who declined to comment and left Redskin Park abruptly yesterday, replaces rookie Patrick Ramsey. Matthews earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept.8, but he was replaced by Danny Wuerffel after three games because coaches felt that he missed opportunities downfield.

The latest switch is the fourth quarterback change for the Redskins this season.

"We don't file them forever. When we sat Shane Matthews down I said 'Shane, hang in there now. Just because you get sat down once doesn't mean it's all over. You get a chance to come back,'" Spurrier said. "So Shane's back as our quarterback. Barring injury, we'll give him every opportunity to be our quarterback."

Meanwhile, former Redskins Pro Bowl guard Tre Johnson signed a one-year, $382,000 deal with the team in an effort to help a beleaguered offensive line that has permitted 12 sacks in the past two games. Johnson chose Washington after meeting with officials of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in part because he still lives in Mitchellville, Md.

"I love to play ball," Johnson said. "This is a finite dream. It's not like being a lawyer and give up law to be an artist, and if it doesn't work out you can go back to law. Football, you can only do it for so long. I want to maximize it until I can't do it anymore and they throw me out and say you can never play again."

The 1999 Pro Bowler said it would be "a stretch" for him to be ready to play against Indianapolis, but he hoped to start soon.

"I didn't come here to watch," Johnson said.

Johnson probably would play left guard while Brenden Stai could return to right guard against the Colts after missing one game with tendinitis. Spurrier said Kipp Vickers could play if Stai does not improve by midweek.

Spurrier is still clearly searching for ways to revamp an offense that has scored an NFL-low nine first-quarter points in the 2-4 start after setting a team-record with 161 points in the preseason. Receiver Rod Gardner returns to the starting lineup after he missed the first snap of the 30-9 loss to Green Bay on Sunday. Changing guards also is possible.

But the Redskins' biggest problems have come at quarterback. Spurrier said "Nobody's mad at anybody" over benching Ramsey after two games, but the first-rounder's play clearly degraded steadily over three games. After completing 20 of 34 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns in relief of the 31-14 victory over Tennessee on Oct.6, Ramsey threw four interceptions against New Orleans and lost three of five fumbles against Green Bay during two straight losses.

"Why a player plays very well one week, then loses it later on, I don't have an answer for that except inexperience," Spurrier said. "Shane gives us the best chance to win as far as taking care of the ball, throwing the ball where it's supposed to go."

Said former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, who started 163 straight games before suffering a career-ending injury in 1985, "The Tennessee game probably was the worst thing that could have happened to Patrick. Everybody had these great expectations. Patrick may have hit the wall a little bit."

Ramsey wasn't surprised over the demotion to No.2 with Wuerffel still recovering from a sprained shoulder.

"I had the opportunity to make some good throws and I didn't make them," Ramsey said. "I'm very confident that I have the ability to play. I just didn't play well. It just makes you upset that you know you can do something and not get it done."

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