- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

Despite conceding the 2003 season is over with five weeks to go, Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier is holding out hope quarterback Patrick Ramsey can return from a lingering foot injury to play Sunday and beyond.

After blowing a 13-point fourth-quarter lead and losing to the Miami Dolphins 24-23 on Sunday night, the Redskins (4-7) find themselves three games out of the NFC’s final wild-card spot. Even if they win out and finish 9-7, they likely would fall short of the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

Compounding Washington’s troubles is the health status of Ramsey, who attempted to play through the pain in his right foot Sunday night only to get knocked out in the first quarter with a slight concussion.

With virtually nothing left to play for this season, the Redskins could consider shutting the second-year quarterback down now that it already has been determined he will need offseason surgery. But unless instructed otherwise by doctors, the team expects Ramsey to attempt to continue to play, perhaps as soon as Sunday against New Orleans.

“The playoffs are very, very unrealistic right now,” Spurrier said. “We’re going to play out the season with our best players and try to win every game we play. Patrick is still our starting quarterback as long as he’s healthy to play. If not, Tim Hasselbeck certainly will get the call.

Hasselbeck, Ramsey’s previously unknown 25-year-old backup, saw the first extensive action of his NFL career Sunday night and rose to the challenge, completing 15 of 30 passes for 150 yards and nearly leading the Redskins to an upset of the Dolphins.

Hasselbeck’s cool performance under pressure, though, won’t persuade Washington to keep Ramsey on the sideline temporarily. Nor has it altered the starting quarterback’s competitive nature.

“My expectation and my desire is to play for the remainder of the season,” Ramsey said. “Whether reality holds up with that, we’ll find out. But I think, for the most part, I can finish out.”

Ramsey, who stayed in Sunday’s game only long enough to complete one of four passes for 7 yards, was due to have his foot re-examined by doctors yesterday. It was revealed recently he has been playing with a fractured bone for some time, the serious effects of which surfaced only in the last two weeks.

Ramsey already has been told he will need surgery once the season is over. But the Redskins don’t believe he can sustain any further injury by continuing to play.

“He’ll need some type of surgery after the season, our doctors say,” Spurrier said. “It’s the type of injury that he cannot hurt any more. It’s just painful. So that’s scheduled for after the season.”

Said Ramsey: “It’s not something I’m really going to be able to recover from until the season’s over with. So we’re just going to try to play it as safely as we can and also as effectively as we can.”

Ramsey’s insistence on starting Sunday despite minimal practice time during the week was understandable, given Washington’s belief it still had a chance to salvage the season. But with Spurrier and many players now conceding defeat in 2003, there would seem to be less incentive for Ramsey to try to fight through the pain.

The young quarterback, however, believes there is still much to be accomplished in the next five weeks.

“I think each rep is still valuable for me, as far as experience is concerned,” said Ramsey, who reported no lingering effects from his concussion. “If I’m not damaging anything further, then I think it would be beneficial for me to play.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Hasselbeck, who had waited years to get an opportunity to play in the NFL before getting the call Sunday night. If Ramsey were to take time off in the coming weeks, it would give Hasselbeck a chance to audition for a more permanent role with the Redskins or some other team.

Hasselbeck, though, is content to just roll with the punches.

“I’m really just trying to learn as much as I can from these coaches about this offense. And I’m going to continue to do that,” he said. “If Patrick’s healthy to play, then Patrick’s going to play. And if not, then I’m going to try to play well.”

Even if given the OK from doctors, Ramsey will be held out of practice most of the week. Once they reach the weekend, the Redskins again will be forced to make a gametime decision about his availability.

“We’ll base that on what the doctors say and on how Patrick feels as far as his physical condition,” Spurrier said. “If he says, ‘Coach, I’m ready to play,’ then he’ll be our guy, and away we’ll go. But if he’s hurting a bit, we have a lot of confidence in Tim Hasselbeck.”

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