- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Following Sunday's sparkling NFL debut at Tennessee, rookie Patrick Ramsey yesterday began adjusting to his new high-profile life as the Washington Redskins' starting quarterback.

"I tried to establish a routine early so that it wouldn't be much different," Ramsey said in a news conference at Redskin Park. "And [I tried to] take it very seriously. Ask [quarterbacks] Danny [Wuerffel] and Shane [Matthews]. I sat between the two of those guys and asked them every question I could ask them. I was still asking them questions today."

But Ramsey isn't the only one with a question. The organization, and especially its fans, want to know whether he, the club's first-round pick in April, can stem the decade-long search for a consistent and consistently successful passer.

No other NFL team has had as many starting quarterbacks as Washington since 1993 13, soon to be 14 when Ramsey starts Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Ever since Mark Rypien was cut by Norv Turner in the 1994 preseason, the town that loves its quarterbacks with fervor has been jilted time and again.

Ramsey is beginning to understand that his new role means far more than any other promotion coach Steve Spurrier might make. But the rookie believes he has more immediate concerns than what the Redskins' starting quarterback means to Washington.

"I've been told and it's been stressed to me, but I don't want to get caught up in that," Ramsey said. "I'm very happy that people were accepting of my performance yesterday. But at the same time I know this is a whole new game this week, and I don't want to ride one game for the rest of my career. I want to continue to be successful and try to be consistent."

Coaches, teammates and those close to the team seem optimistic about Ramsey's quest. Although he faces a more difficult challenge from the Saints' defense (though rookie Joey Harrington burned New Orleans in Detroit's only win this season), Ramsey's talent, poise and durability Sunday showed that he is ready.

"I think what Patrick showed was a lot of courage back there, in the face of a lot of guys coming at him," Spurrier said. "He was still able to throw the ball, take the hit and keep drives going."

And there are signals Ramsey will improve quickly. One team source, for example, said Ramsey spent Sunday's plane ride back to Washington talking with his offensive line continuing to form an important bond with the players who protect him. And a source familiar with last week's practice setup said Ramsey got virtually no snaps when midweek preparation began for Tennessee, giving way to that game's projected starter, Wuerffel.

So while a key question is how Ramsey will react to having a whole week to think about his new role, wide receiver Rod Gardner said simply, "Now he's got a week to think about it and get even more prepared."

Wide receiver Kevin Lockett, a recipient of one of the rookie's two touchdown passes Sunday, is another teammate who believes Ramsey soon will top his impressive opening day.

"I think what you saw yesterday were a lot of physical tools he has," Lockett said. "But I think as he gets in there and he gets his feet wet more, you'll see a lot more of his game evolve. I think he's going to be a lot better than what you saw yesterday."

Meanwhile, Ramsey's play is just one reason the Redskins suddenly feel far more optimistic this season. Also keying the 31-14 win over Tennessee were the gritty effort of injured running back Stephen Davis and the resurgent performance by the defense.

Of the two, the defense's rising from two poor games answered a more pressing question even players were starting to wonder when they would be up to speed in Marvin Lewis' new scheme. Although the unit struggled briefly in the second quarter, yielding two touchdown drives, it limited the Titans to 85 yards after halftime.

A crucial reason for the performance, besides the players' obvious continued learning, was that they finally stopped paying attention to the erratic play on the other side of the ball.

"The defense really just took it upon themselves to stay positive no matter what happens," linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. "No matter what the offense did, we were going to go out there and try to stop them, continue to put [the offense] on the field."

The victory was pivotal as Washington eyes its tough upcoming stretch of New Orleans (4-1), Green Bay (4-1) and Indianapolis (3-1). Smiles abounded at Redskin Park yesterday, where a variety of pressures, starting with the quarterback question, had been lifted.

"Anytime you win it loosens pressure," Trotter said. "Winning sure beats losing. It's easier to come to work, it's easier to deal with people. A lot of mistakes that you normally make sometimes go overlooked when you're winning."

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