- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2002

The rookie is starting to get his snaps.

Quarterback Patrick Ramsey moved up from the scout team yesterday as the Washington Redskins began on-field preparations for Sunday's game at San Francisco. After taking a few plays with the regular offense during practice, the first-round draft pick spent an extra half hour on the field working with coach Steve Spurrier and quarterback Danny Wuerffel.

Starter Shane Matthews practiced lightly with a bruised left (non-throwing) shoulder and reiterated his intention to play. He officially is listed "questionable." Spurrier once again said Matthews, barring a setback, will start and Ramsey is No.3, but the coach added that the rookie will play "quickly" if Matthews and Wuerffel don't improve from Monday's 37-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

"We're not ready to put [Ramsey] in yet," Spurrier said. "But if the other two don't play very well, we'll put him in quickly.

"Obviously, as all you guys know, [Matthews] needs to play and play well," Spurrier added. "That's the way life is. You play younger guys if older guys aren't playing well. That's all positions, not just quarterbacks. That's every dang one of them. Some of our other guys on the team who are older players, they need to play better."

Ramsey's outlook has shifted markedly in a short period of time. Just a few days ago he seemed buried on the depth chart, relegated to acting out other team's plays against the starting defense. And in early August Spurrier even looked into trading Ramsey during his 16-day holdout. By yesterday, Ramsey had to laugh when asked about his rapidly improving status.

"If I have learned anything in two weeks of being here during the regular season, [its] don't be surprised by anything," Ramsey said. "Obviously I was surprised that Shane didn't do better than he did. But we have a chance to rebound this week. and I think we'll do so."

Matthews was NFC Offensive Player of the Week after Washington's opening 31-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals, but his shoulder injury and 62-yard, one-interception effort against the Eagles led Spurrier to say afterward that he "may practice Patrick up a little bit, see how close he is to playing."

Yesterday, both Spurrier and Ramsey saw that the strong-armed rookie needs some work.

"He doesn't know where everybody's going yet," Spurrier said. "He can look pretty throwing it through the air, but he's got to know where and when and who's open and who's not. It's just a lot of stuff for him."

Said Ramsey: "I feel better than I did at the end of the preseason, but I know I still have a ways to go."

Matthews expects to work more extensively today. He said he felt "so-so" in practice and Spurrier believes the injury might be affecting his follow-through. Matthews did not participate in the after-practice session.

Wuerffel hasn't played well against opposing team's starters after dominating reserves in two early preseason games. Spurrier questioned Wuerffel's decision-making and confidence earlier this week but Wuerffel believes nothing has changed.

"I feel as confident as I've ever felt," Wuerffel said. "There are some decisions I made [Monday] that I haven't made [in the past]. You fight every play and sometimes in the course of the battle you do some not-so-smart things."

Meanwhile, defensive tackle Daryl Gardener returned to the field after back spasms caused him to miss the Eagles game and fellow starting tackle Dan Wilkinson sat out practice with a sprained wrist. Gardener is "questionable" and Wilkinson "probable" for Sunday, but both intend to play.

"I'll be playing this week," Gardener said. "I guess it's a week-to-week thing. But talking to the doctors, I feel like we've finally been able to attack this situation."

Said Wilkinson: "I don't know if I'll be in [practice] tomorrow, but I'm definitely going to play, though. Whatever I have to do, I'll be on the field."

It's unclear how much Gardener practiced. Asked whether he did team drills as well as individual work, he replied only: "I'll be playing Sunday."

Earlier in the day, he acknowledged that he expects to practice less each week in order to maximize his chances of playing.

"[My back is] a concern. I wouldn't say it's an issue," Gardener said. "But we're doing the right things. We're cutting back in practices and stuff so I can show up on Sundays. I know most of the defense. I know what to do out there. If I was out there Monday, we would at least have had a better chance."

Left tackle Chris Samuels (groin) also is probable, while linebacker Antonio Pierce (ankle) and tackle Kipp Vickers (knee) are questionable. Tight end Walter Rasby (knee) is out.

With regard to Vickers, who was inactive Monday after not being listed on the injury report, Spurrier said he has loose cartilage in his knee and eventually might need surgery. For now, Vickers is practicing and hoping to play; Alex Sulfsted, according to Spurrier, is getting extra reps in practice.

For the 49ers, guard Eric Heitmann (neck), linebacker Jeff Ulbrich (knee) and center Jeremy Newberry (calf) are probable. Safety Zack Bronson (shoulder) is questionable. Tackle Matt Willig (knee) is doubtful. Running back Paul Smith (hamstring) is out.

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