- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier abruptly changed quarterbacks yesterday, cutting Rob Johnson, the team’s only backup to Patrick Ramsey, and signing Tim Hasselbeck, who has yet to throw a pass in an NFL game.

Johnson perfectly summed up his release by saying he was “surprised but not totally surprised.” It was clear he never meshed with Spurrier after signing a two-year, $2million contract in March, and team sources confirmed yesterday that the coach was behind Johnson’s release.

Spurrier was not available to comment after the moves were made. His only other passer is on the practice squad, seventh-round pick Gibran Hamdan.

Hasselbeck was among six free agents who worked out at Redskin Park yesterday as the club’s personnel department got a jump on evaluations for the offseason. He wasn’t even sure if his workout was for a roster spot or future considerations.

By day’s end, he was a snap away from playing in the Nov.2 game at Dallas, backing up a frequently pummeled quarterback who hasn’t finished the past two games. Hasselbeck spent the afternoon getting a crash course in the Fun’n’ Gun but was realistic about his learning curve.

“I haven’t seen this for more than three hours,” Hasselbeck said. “I would think that by the Dallas game, I’ll have a grasp on enough stuff so there’d be a plan if it ever happened that I had to get in the game.”

Hasselbeck, 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, is the brother of Seattle starter Matt Hasselbeck, whose Seahawks play at FedEx Field on Nov.9. After playing at Boston College, Tim Hasselbeck signed with Buffalo as an undrafted rookie in 2001, spent training camp with Baltimore, played in NFL Europe the following spring, split 2002 between Philadelphia and Carolina and was cut after the Eagles’ most recent training camp.

He played in two Eagles games as a holder and was the No.2 passer both in Philadelphia (when Donovan McNabb and Koy Detmer were hurt) and in Carolina (when Rodney Peete and Chris Weinke went down). So he wasn’t totally stunned by going from the street to second string.

“It’s how it’s always worked out for me,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s crazy how it happens. … I’ve kind of come to realize that that’s how I’m going to have to make my mark in this league.”

Club officials like the arm and smarts of Hasselbeck, but he, like predecessors Shane Matthews and Johnson, will have to overcome a heavy background in the West Coast offense to guide the Fun’n’ Gun.

“A lot of my college experience was in [the West Coast], and my experience in the pros was that way,” Hasselbeck said. “A lot of the concepts make sense to me, are things I’ve done before and been coached on before. I’m just going to try to take the coaching here as much as possible.”

Johnson believes he never had much of a chance to do that. He didn’t speak to Spurrier when he was released in the afternoon, saying he was told of the move by pro personnel director Scott Campbell and that he wasn’t given a reason.

Asked if he felt he ever got along with Spurrier, he replied, “No. Definitely. … I mean, you’ve got to be able to coach and get along with all different types of guys. I didn’t think we were at each other, but it’s not like we were best buds.”

Johnson played in two games as a Redskin, completing five of seven passes for 39 yards and getting sacked three times. He played the final nine minutes in Sunday’s loss at Buffalo after Ramsey was knocked from the game with hand and hip injuries.

Spurrier rotated quarterbacks frequently last season but never opened the job to competition this summer. Johnson, in fact, struggled during the early part of training camp and appeared headed for third-string as the preseason ended. But owner Dan Snyder cut Danny Wuerffel, a longtime favorite of Spurrier and the expected No.2.

The unique nature of Spurrier’s offense and the coach’s system of frequent audibles were big hurdles for Johnson, but he said yesterday the scheme “wasn’t a problem.” Asked if he was bitter, he replied, “No.”

Asked if he was happy to depart, he said, “Yes.”

In that manner, Johnson followed Matthews in balking at the Fun’n’ Gun, Spurrier or some combination of the two. Matthews started seven games for Spurrier last season but was frustrated after being benched a second time and had no interest in returning.

Notes — Ramsey (hand, hip) surprised even himself by returning to practice yesterday. He wasn’t expected to see the field until at least today. … Wide receiver Laveranues Coles, in addition to suffering from turf toe, injured his ribs at Buffalo, Spurrier said. Still, Coles is expected to be fine next week. … Wide receiver Darnerien McCants (ankle) and defensive tackle Jermaine Haley (thumb) practiced. … Also working out were quarterback Brandon Doman and wide receivers Ken-Yon Rambo, Micah Ross, Marvin Minnis and Herb Haygood.

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