- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2004

INDIANAPOLIS — The Washington Redskins say they will not trade Patrick Ramsey, and coach Joe Gibbs reiterated yesterday that the disgruntled quarterback will “absolutely” have the opportunity to compete with newly acquired veteran Mark Brunell for the starting job this season.

Speaking to reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine, Gibbs said he has met several times with Ramsey over the last two weeks and has assured the 24-year-old quarterback that he remains a key figure in the organization’s short-term and long-term plans.

“I told Patrick that the decisions we’ve made, it should be pretty obvious, are based on the fact that we think a whole lot of him,” Gibbs said of Ramsey, who started 11 games under former coach Steve Spurrier last season, his second in the NFL. “We think he’s got a tremendous future with us.”

Ramsey might not agree. The Redskins and Brunell agreed Thursday night on a seven-year, $43million contract, and during a Friday night dinner at an Indianapolis steakhouse, Ramsey’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, asked Washington owner Dan Snyder to trade his client.

Snyder, according to sources with knowledge of the conversation, told Sexton he has no intention of doing so. A club source also said despite published reports of various teams’ interest in acquiring Ramsey, the Redskins have received no direct inquiries from anyone seeking the young quarterback.

Ramsey is vacationing in the Caribbean. When reached yesterday, Sexton declined to comment, but earlier he told ESPN.com Ramsey is sticking with his trade demand.

“There’s only one way to resolve this mess, and that’s to trade Patrick,” Sexton said. “I mean, they knew how Patrick felt before [Friday night], and they certainly know even more so now. He wants out. Plain and simple. And if they don’t think there is a [viable] market for him, give me 15 minutes, and I’ll bring them a fistful of offers.”

Asked yesterday if there was any chance he would trade Ramsey, Gibbs said, “No.” He also stressed that Brunell’s acquisition — which will become official on March3 when the Redskins send the Jacksonville Jaguars their third-round draft pick — was made to strengthen the team at quarterback and was not a reflection of any dissatisfaction with Ramsey’s performance.

“As a matter of fact, our primary analysis of the quarterback position had a lot to do with Patrick Ramsey,” Gibbs said. “We felt like our situation was to make sure that we were going to have a very solid, sound quarterback situation. That’s what I’m used to, that’s what I always felt like we had in the past. That’s why we made the efforts that we have.”

Gibbs insisted Ramsey will have an opportunity to compete with Brunell, who turns 34 in September, for the starting job during training camp. Given the $8.6million bonus Brunell will receive for joining the Redskins, the notion of an open competition at quarterback sounds highly implausible to most, but Gibbs said Brunell’s salary will have no bearing on his playing time.

“The amazing thing to me is somebody says you’re going to play somebody because you’re paying him a lot of money,” Gibbs said. “A coach wouldn’t be real smart if he played somebody for any other reason than he thought that was the best chance to win a game.”

Despite Gibbs’ repeated assurances, he is sure to have plenty of doubters who find it unlikely Brunell would sign with Washington unless he knew he would start. A source close to Brunell said the quarterback left his face-to-face meeting with Gibbs two weeks ago in Jacksonville under the impression he would most likely be the starter ahead of Ramsey.

“It’s a farce,” Sexton said of a Brunell-Ramsey quarterback competition. “I mean, how can they say that? They just paid Brunell, what, like $40million? The finances dictate [Brunell] is the starter. That’s the reality, and they can’t think we’re dumb enough not to know that, can they?”

Gibbs said he told Brunell what he tells all his prospective acquisitions: “We’re going to play the best players at every position.”

And, especially when it comes to quarterbacks, Gibbs does not feel comfortable unless he has two players capable of performing when called upon.

“You can’t afford to go in there and say if we had one person get hurt, we’re up a creek,” he said. “To me, that would pretty much destroy a football team. That was one of my biggest concerns before when I coached. If there is a feeling on the team that the person at quarterback can’t get it done … everything collapses. Because the confidence of the team goes down. And I feel real good that the process we’re in right now, once it’s finished, we’ll say we’ve got a very good, solid, exciting quarterback situation.”

Notes — It’s the Redskins’ move now in trade negotiations with other clubs over Champ Bailey. The Pro Bowl cornerback was given the franchise tag by Washington and granted permission to seek a trade. Agent Jack Reale said he’s ready to strike a deal with any of the four to six teams he has met with this weekend and now must wait for the Redskins to work out the parameters of a trade. It’s believed Washington’s asking price is as high as first- and second-round draft picks.

“I think we could be finished in a couple hours,” Reale said. “It’s really up to the [Redskins], what they’re trying to do and what they feel they can get in return.”

Gibbs said he has not given up on the possibility of Bailey remaining a Redskin this season at his one-year, franchise tag salary of $6.8million but is also prepared to lose him in a trade.

“We would love to have Champ. I mean, who wouldn’t? He’s one of the premier corners in the game, and we love that,” Gibbs said. “It’s just that we felt like with what he was going to ask [for in a long-term contract], it was going to be hard for us to do that. So then it became a process of what else can you do here to help the football team? It may very well still wind up that we put him on the tag, because you’ve got a guy there who is a tremendous talent. We like him. We’d love to have a chance to sign him. And who knows, maybe at some point we do.” …

Gibbs said he plans to hold his first minicamp March26-28 at Redskin Park. The NFL allows teams with a new coaching staff to hold one pre-draft minicamp. It will represent Gibbs’ first opportunity to watch his players practice in person.

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