- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Steve Spurrier looked a little bit like the cat who swallowed the canary as the Washington Redskins returned to practice yesterday. The coach seems to know who he plans to start at quarterback for the team's next game, but with the date at Tennessee still 11 days away, he won't let on for a while.

Asked if he knew in which direction he's leaning, Spurrier said, "Yeah. Depending on what happens this week in practice a little bit."

As expected, career bench-warmer Danny Wuerffel and rookie Patrick Ramsey split the work yesterday as ailing starter Shane Matthews rested. Matthews, who was knocked out of the Sept.16 loss to Philadelphia with a badly bruised non-throwing shoulder and suffered a bruised chest in Sunday's 20-10 defeat at San Francisco, also won't practice today or tomorrow before the players get a three-day bye week break. Matthews said he wasn't feeling any better yesterday than on Monday, when he was still having some difficulty breathing as result of the penalized hit by 49ers defensive end Andre Carter.

"Patrick and Danny alternated today," Spurrier said. "Shane's bruised up pretty good so we'll rest him this week and let those two get all the work. We'll get them both ready to go. They looked fine today."

Wuerffel's 11 passes against the Eagles and the 49ers were his first since he started four games for New Orleans in 1998, his second NFL season. So while his two interceptions were ugly, it's understandable if he was pressing, especially with the offense having managed just 10 points in the two games.

"Usually I'm smart enough to take what the defense gives me," Wuerffel said. "I tried to make things happen that I shouldn't try to do. I've got no excuses. You make a mistake, you make a mistake. But you come in and you want to make something happen. I made a couple of bad plays, but we've had a lot of plays since [the start of offseason work in] March and I feel I've done what I was supposed to a good percentage of the time. When and if I get another chance, I'm going to be ready. I'm not down on myself. I'm very confident."

Ramsey is less sure in Spurrier's offense than Wuerffel, who led Florida to the national championship while winning the Heisman Trophy in 1996 and draws praise from the coach for his practices.

"What I need to learn to do is to not let my arm make up for my lack of knowledge," said Ramsey, who passed for 9,205 yards as a three-year starter at Tulane. "At this level, creases close much more quickly. You want to fire one in there and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I have to fire one in there when it's necessary and smooth one in there when it's not. If it's covered downfield, try not to force it because you think you might be able to. I have to learn to efficiently get it to the right guy."

That's supposed to be Wuerffel's strength since his arm is more popgun than shotgun.

"People always just look at statistics, but there are a lot of other things that go into making an offense run smoothly, from calling the plays to organizing things to making smart throws," Wuerffel said. "Sometimes the best throw to make is to throw the ball out of bounds. Coach looks at the same things he has always looked at: your decision-making, you're getting the ball in the right place at the right time, your timing, your command of the offense."

Of course those are also the strengths of fellow ex-Gator Matthews, who's a good enough passer to have earned NFC Player of the Week acclaim and throw for 300 yards in three of his five games for Chicago and Washington during the past 12 months.

So where does all of this leave the Redskins at quarterback?

"We're week by week right now and hopefully we can get some stability at that position," Spurrier said.

Stability at the position would be a refreshing change for a team which has started seven quarterbacks and has made nine in-season switches during its past 70 games.

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