- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2003

Any hopes the Washington Redskins still harbor of a late fall run and a salvaged season are predicated on one simple fact: Patrick Ramsey must be their quarterback the rest of the way.

As recently as six days ago, the possibility Ramsey wouldn’t be under center for the final six games wasn’t even contemplated. Then word got out that the second-year quarterback has been playing with a fractured right foot, the effects of which have become more obvious each week.

With Ramsey’s status uncertain for tonight’s game at Miami, the Redskins (4-6) no longer are worried about finishing the season on an upswing. They’re worried about finishing it in one piece.

“I don’t care about next week, or the week after that. All I care about is this week,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “We don’t need to worry about anything after Sunday.”

After sitting out most of practice all week and getting non-stop treatment all weekend, Ramsey will attempt to show the Redskins’ coaching staff during pregame warmups that he can go.

On Friday, coach Steve Spurrier seemed to doubt Ramsey would recover and spoke as though inexperienced Tim Hasselbeck would be the starter.

“Right now [Ramsey is] hurting a little bit,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully, the treatment will help. And if that comes around OK and he feels fine during warmups, then certainly he’ll go ahead and start.”

The more likely scenario has the 25-year-old Hasselbeck making his first career start, with Ramsey available off the bench in an emergency. The Redskins elected not to sign rookie Gibran Hamdan off the practice squad before yesterday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

The prospect of making his starting debut against the Dolphins (6-4) on the road in a nationally televised game is a daunting one. But Hasselbeck, who threw the first three passes of his career three weeks ago, is trying his best to block all that out and approach this game like any other.

“I really don’t try to think about it too much, in terms of whether Patrick is going to be able to go or not be able to go,” Hasselbeck said. “I’m really just trying to prepare myself to be ready to play, whether it’s to open the game, whether it’s the second series or whatever it is.”

The Redskins aren’t the only team with quarterback issues. Miami’s starter remains up in the air as well, with Jay Fiedler attempting to return from a sprained knee that has sidelined him for a month.

Like Spurrier, Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt will wait until game time to make a decision, but the expectation in South Florida is that less effective Brian Griese will make his fifth straight start.

The similarities between the Redskins and Dolphins end there. Miami’s quarterback knows he has workhorse running back Ricky Williams lined up behind him, but Washington’s can’t be too encouraged by his team’s hodgepodge of tailbacks.

Though he’s having a down-year by his standards, Williams still has 246 rushes for 802 yards. That’s nearly three times as many carries as the Redskins’ top running back (Trung Canidate, 87) for more than twice as many yards (347).

Despite his ineffectiveness since coming back from a high ankle sprain, Canidate will be Washington’s starting tailback again tonight. That’s more a result of injuries to Ladell Betts (fractured forearm) and Rock Cartwright (sprained ankle) than the coaching staff’s confidence in Canidate.

More than once last week, Spurrier mentioned John Simon, and the little-known backup is likely to see the most action of his career playing behind Canidate.

Canidate is willing to split the workload if it results in a victory and helps keep the Redskins’ fragile season alive.

“This game is important, and that’s an understatement,” Canidate said. “We need this one. We’re 4-6, and that’s terrible considering the expectations we had for ourselves this season.”

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