Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Washington Redskins defensive end Renaldo Wynn feared the worst Sunday when he saw quarterback Patrick Ramsey get drilled by Willie McGinest only minutes into the game against the New England Patriots.

What worried Wynn wasn’t so much any damage to Ramsey’s body. It was the hit’s potential impact on his psyche.

“When we were on the sideline and we saw that hit …” Wynn said this week, trailing off with a grimace. “There’s some guys who can’t get up from that. They’re rattled the whole game just thinking about getting hit again.”

Not Ramsey. The NFL chews up some young quarterbacks and leaves them shells of the players they were projected to be, but Ramsey is surviving all the beatings, blitzes and disguised coverages to lead the NFC in passing yards (1,036) and rank third in quarterback rating (90.5).

What might have been considered a lucky start a few weeks ago is looking more and more like a glimpse of a promising future. Besides posting great statistics and withstanding so many big hits, Ramsey is doing “all the little things,” as coach Steve Spurrier put it, in leading Washington to a 3-1 start.

“It’s amazing how quickly he’s matured as a quarterback, especially in this league,” Wynn said. “Some guys it takes a couple years, and some guys never quite get it.”

Redskins teammates and coaches aren’t the only ones noticing Ramsey’s quick progress after he bounced in and out of the lineup as rookie. He also is impressing people who work in other clubs’ personnel departments.

“In the quarterback world, it’s very, very early,” one general manager said. “But if you wanted to size up somebody after just nine starts, you’d be impressed. It’s not the norm for someone to be this good after only nine starts.”

Said one team’s personnel director: “He’s exceeded my expectations in Year 2, especially because he didn’t play a lot in Year 1.”

Ramsey hasn’t been constantly sharp, by any means. In fact, he generally has posted one good half and one average-to-bad half in each game, leaving plenty of room for improvement as Washington enters a daunting stretch (at Philadelphia, vs. Tampa Bay, at Buffalo) that should tell a lot about its playoff hopes.

But the fact that Ramsey has regrouped from weak first halves in two instances (at Atlanta, vs. the New York Giants) to finish with 300-yard games has shown he is very much in the fight at this level — rather than just getting knocked around like many young passers.

“What we’d want to see [in a young quarterback] is, first, that he’s completely familiar with our offense and then that he has at least a thumbnail sketch of the league,” the general manager said. “So then when things pop up, at least you can communicate with him about it. If he’s got that, then you can go play.

“A team might throw a hot read at him or a new blitz. Once he comes off the field, he has to regroup and figure out what they did. Then there’s going to be another new blitz, and he’s going to have to adjust again.”

So far, Ramsey, the 32nd pick overall in 2002, appears a bit better at that process than his quarterback peers from the first round of that draft. David Carr, selected first, has a 69.4 rating for 2-2 Houston. Joey Harrington, the third pick, has a 63.0 rating for 1-3 Detroit.

A pro scout for a team Washington has played this season believes Ramsey has been cushioned by the situation he has been put in — with good players to share the burden of making plays.

“He has good skill players around the perimeter,” the scout said. “And it’s a scheme that can do things. They can test you deep. And ironically, although I never would have expected it, the run game is really helping him out.”

Spurrier’s Fun ‘n’ Gun isn’t known for running the ball, but the combination of Trung Canidate and Ladell Betts has helped the Redskins to four straight 100-yard games.

“They’re running the ball fairly effectively,” the scout said. “Spurrier is sticking with it.”

The general manager also speculated that Ramsey’s intelligence meshes well with Spurrier, a renowned offensive architect.

“He’s benefiting from the fact that he’s bright and that he’s working with one of the better offensive minds in football,” the GM said. “I think they’re on the same plane when they’re talking, which is an obvious benefit.”

But none of Ramsey’s traits are viewed as significant as what Wynn and Redskins teammates witnessed again Sunday — the ability to take a hit.

The scout applauded Ramsey for being so productive despite being the NFL’s most-sacked quarterback (15 times), saying, “He can’t control what’s happening in front of him. It’s good that he can weather the storm.”

Said the personnel director: “He’s got more poise than you’d expect from a second-year guy. You’re going to get hit. If you’ve got toughness, then you’ve got a chance.”

Although some around the league are a little surprised by Ramsey’s success, Redskins players maintain they expected nothing different.

“It doesn’t surprise us,” linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. “He comes in on Tuesdays [the players day off]. I told him last Tuesday, ‘Man, you’ve got to go home. Go home to your wife.’ But that’s just the guy he is. When you’ve got a guy who has a passion for the game, he does the little things to get ahead.”

True to form, Ramsey spent a couple hours at Redskin Park yesterday afternoon. He went over the plays Washington is preparing for Philadelphia and picked up some study aids from coaches on the Eagles’ coverages and blitzes. As he exited, he shrugged when asked what he has proved through 11/4 NFL seasons.

“I think I’ve proven the fact that I’m going to work hard and try to put my team in the best position to win a football game,” Ramsey said. “I haven’t proved I’m a great player or anything. I’ve got a long way to go before I prove that.”

Notes — The Redskins plan to work out tight end Byron Chamberlain on Friday. The eight-year veteran was a 2001 Pro Bowl pick with 57 catches for Minnesota. He was released Monday after being reinstated from a four-game suspension for testing positive for ephedra. Chamberlain reportedly was more than 20 pounds overweight.

The Redskins have just four catches from tight ends Zeron Flemister and Robert Royal this season, and in the preseason they tried to sign veteran Wesley Walls, who ended up in Green Bay. Chamberlain has no other visits set up at this point, but apparently the Redskins aren’t the only team interested. …

Cornerback Rashad Bauman expressed little concern about his strained hamstring and didn’t expect to miss any practice time this week. Said Bauman: “I’m going to take some precautions on some one-on-ones, probably. But for the most part I’ll go through everything and see how it feels. Hopefully, it will hold up like it did last week.”

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