- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2003

Tim Hasselbeck has plenty to be thankful for these days, with his promotion to starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins, his brother’s five-touchdown performance last week and his wife’s new network TV gig.

These, however, are mostly trivial matters compared with the delight Hasselbeck took this week when he realized he wouldn’t be eating a Thanksgiving dinner made by Stouffer’s.

“I’m sick of the frozen dinners,” Hasselbeck said, “so it’s good to have her back down here.”

“Her” is Hasselbeck’s wife, Elisabeth, in town for the holiday weekend while taking a break from her new job as co-host of ABC’s “The View.” The Hasselbecks don’t see much of each other these days, not with Elisabeth living in New York while Tim quarterbacks the Redskins and eats spaghetti out of a can in his Sterling townhouse.

Not this weekend. Elisabeth was at Redskin Park yesterday to pick up her husband after his morning practice and film session, and the two planned a nice, quiet Thanksgiving together.

“We’ll finally get to spend some time with each other and relax,” Tim said.

Not that Hasselbeck is easily relaxed at the moment. He is, after all, two days away from making the first start of his NFL career.

The Redskins haven’t made it official yet, but Hasselbeck is almost certain to be under center Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Patrick Ramsey, who has managed to play in pain all season, appears to finally have succumbed to his ailing right foot and is likely to be inactive this weekend.

“I think it would have to heal up for me to be able to play well,” Ramsey said yesterday, his foot still in a cast.

With Ramsey on the sideline this week (and perhaps beyond), coach Steve Spurrier will hand over the reins of his offense to Hasselbeck, who prior to last Sunday had thrown three passes in his NFL career.

And what if something happens to him? Gibran Hamdan, the rookie seventh-round draft pick, likely will be signed off the practice squad and serve as Washington’s No.2 quarterback against New Orleans.

“There’s a good chance Gibran will be our second quarterback this week if Patrick’s not able to play,” Spurrier said. “And he looks very doubtful right now.”

For Hasselbeck, all of this is a dream come true. After bouncing around the league and Europe since graduating from Boston College in 2001, he might finally have found a home.

No one is harboring any illusions of a quarterback controversy in Washington; Ramsey, once healthy, is the future of the franchise. But if he can build off his strong performance last week in Miami, Hasselbeck could earn himself a full-time job, either as the Redskins’ backup or perhaps with another team.

Out of a job as recently as a month ago, Hasselbeck is just grateful for the opportunity to play at all.

“For me, it’s just so much fun,” he said. “‘Cause I’ve been to the point where I’ve thought, ‘You know what, maybe I’m not ever going to play in the NFL.’ I mean, there were some bad times, some times you get cut and it hurts your feelings. So to have the opportunity to play in a game and realize that excitement. … It feels good.”

Rarely does a midseason acquisition ascend up the depth chart so quickly, and even rarer does he earn his teammates’ admiration and respect. Hasselbeck has done just that, winning over plenty of supporters during his 15-for-30, 150-yard performance against the Dolphins.

Now, it’s almost as if he’s been a Redskin since Week 1, not Week 9.

“That’s one of the things I was worried about,” Hamdan said. “When you come in halfway through the season, there’s a part of you that has to earn the respect of your teammates. And that’s something he’s done.”

Hasselbeck has won everyone over not just with his play on the field, but with his demeanor and humanity off it. He comes from a football family — father Don was an NFL tight end for nine years, older brother Matt currently starts for the Seahawks, younger brother Nathanael is a safety at Boston College — but he also comes from a giving family.

While the rest of his college classmates were spending Spring Break in Panama City or South Padre Island, Hasselbeck was with a volunteer group in Jamaica working with lepers.

“It was a pretty amazing experience,” he said. “There was a point where an 18-year-old mother asked me to take her daughter back because she couldn’t provide a good life for her. Obviously, being a sophomore at college, it wasn’t something I was able to do. That was an experience — my wife took a similar trip to Belize her freshman year — that made a lasting impression on us both.”

It’s those experiences that have made the Hasselbecks appreciate their lives back home. So even after a momentous week that saw Matt throw five touchdown passes, Elisabeth win the permanent spot on “The View” and Tim earn his first career start, the Hasselbecks are able to put it all into perspective.

“This week, a lot of great things have happened to our family,” Hasselbeck said. “We’ve been fortunate.”

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