- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2002

A day after Steve Spurrier benched starting quarterback Shane Matthews for backup Danny Wuerffel in the fourth quarter of a 20-10 loss at San Francisco, Washington's coach offered reasons for and against giving the nod to Matthews, Wuerffel and rookie third-stringer Patrick Ramsey for the Redskins' next game Oct.6 at Tennessee.
"Is it time to think about giving Danny a full opportunity or see how Shane is [physically] or get Patrick ready?" Spurrier said. "That's what we'll debate this week."
With the Redskins conveniently having a bye this week, Spurrier has the luxury of a little time before making his choice, which he plans to announce no later than Oct.3.
Spurrier did say that Ramsey and Wuerffel will get almost all of the work in practice the next three days as Matthews, the most experienced of the trio, rests. Matthews said the blow to the chest delivered by 49ers defensive end Andre Carter, which drew a late hit flag, was probably the hardest he has taken in his 24 NFL games. The nine-year veteran said he was still a little out of breath yesterday and that the badly bruised non-throwing shoulder that caused Spurrier to sit him in favor of Wuerrfel in the second half of the 37-7 drubbing by Philadelphia on Oct.16 still isn't 100 percent either.
"Shane's a little battered and bruised right now," Spurrier said. "He took some hits that quarterbacks shouldn't have to take. The way he has been hit, he may need a little bit of relief for a while. Shane didn't play all that poorly yesterday. When he had time, he pretty much threw it where he was supposed to. It's tough back there when you think someone's going to clobber you every time you go back [to pass]."
Spurrier has seriously questioned Wuerffel's recent decision-making and confidence, but he hasn't written off the quarterback who won the 1996 national championship and Heisman Trophy while playing for him at Florida.
"Danny [has made] a couple of errors," Spurrier said of Wuerffel's lobbed interceptions in each of the past two games. "[But] he really hasn't had a full opportunity. Whether or not that would help him, I don't know. In minicamps and early in preseason, he was very good [but] lately, nothing good ever happens when he's in the game. [On Sunday], we get a holding penalty, we get sacked and then he threw the interception."
Wuerffel, who blamed himself for the bad decision, made the last of his six NFL starts four years ago for New Orleans. Ramsey was then a little-used freshman across town at Tulane. Now, he's the first-round draft pick that Redskins fans are eager to see play.
"Whether Patrick's ready to step in and do a lot, I don't know," Spurrier said. "Sometimes, you've just got to put the player in and find out. Obviously, Patrick has the strongest arm of the three. We'll coach him up as much as we can. Maybe we need to find out pretty soon whether Patrick can make decisions, step back there and pitch it around."
The quarterbacks themselves don't really know what to make of the competition.
"Obviously [the idea of being benched] bothers me, because I'm doing everything I can to help this team win," said Matthews, the NFC Offensive Player of the Week in the opening 31-23 victory over Arizona. "I thought I played pretty well yesterday. My bottom line is I want to win. If Coach thinks somebody else can play better, I'll be supportive."
Ramsey is appreciative of the advice he's receiving from his veteran competitors and is trying to remain similarly professional with the possibility of his first NFL start looming. He took his first regular-season snaps with the starters in practice last week.
"This is something I've always wanted to do, but I want to approach it from a professional standpoint: be prepared and not get so caught up in the emotion of the matter," Ramsey said. "Last week [in practice], I made some throws that I had been unable to make. That gave me a little bit of confidence as far as completing some balls downfield on our defense.
"This is a difficult job even being a veteran like Shane. I can't think of any case where a guy has come in and totally dominated as a rookie. I know no one's ready to write off the season. I think that's the reason that [Spurrier] is holding off on me right now. He's not going to put me in there until he thinks I can help our team win. Thus far, Shane and Danny have been the guys who can better help our team win. When Coach decides I'm equal to or have surpassed those guys, that's when he'll allow me to play."
Notes With starting receivers Rod Gardner and Derrius Thompson having combined for just eight catches for 109 yards the past two weeks, Spurrier said he's considering significantly increasing the playing time of their backups. Offensive line coach Kim Helton said left guard David Loverne, who has struggled the past two weeks, will continue to start. Team sources said reserve guard Kipp Vickers was expected to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery perhaps as soon as last night.

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