- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 27, 2004

A month after Patrick Ramsey’s agent lobbied publicly and privately for a trade, the Washington Redskins quarterback proclaimed contentment with his impending battle for the starting job and played down any previous frustration.

“I’m very comfortable,” Ramsey said in his first public comments since Washington traded for Mark Brunell on March3. “Through everything, Coach [Joe] Gibbs has assured me that it’s going to be an open, full quarterback competition. My real concern is to get healthy and then to fight for the starting job.”

Ramsey’s health regards his right foot, which underwent surgery to remove an ossicle (extra piece of bone) in December and now is limiting his participation in Gibbs’ first minicamp.

While Gibbs made a high-profile return to the football field by overseeing his first Redskins practice in 11 years, Ramsey threw only in individual drills and watched Brunell, a three-time Pro Bowl pick who signed a seven-year, $43million contract, and Tim Hasselbeck split full squad work.

The scene was far from what Ramsey might have expected last season as he entrenched himself as Steve Spurrier’s starter, lighting up the NFL in the first three games before the weekly beatings forced him out of the lineup. Back then, Ramsey was viewed as Washington’s starter until further notice.

That notice was served last month, when the Redskins’ pursuit of Brunell became public. Although Ramsey never made any controversial statements in public, agent Jimmy Sexton claimed Ramsey would try to force a trade to a team for which he would start.

Yesterday Ramsey claimed that Gibbs’ promise of a fair shot at the starting job prevented his frustration from ever reaching the point of demanding a trade.

“I didn’t ever demand a trade,” Ramsey said. “The way I felt about it was, if Mark was coming in here to be the starter and there was going to be no competition, I didn’t feel like that was going to be a great situation for me. I’m sure that was not the situation, and that’s why I’m happy to still be here.”

Gibbs’ fundamental belief in strength at quarterback drove the decision to swap a third-round pick with the Jacksonville Jaguars and pony up major cash to land Brunell. The coach reiterated that Ramsey, sooner or later, will be a crucial part of the success he plans as Redskins coach.

“The first thing we did [in plotting the position] is, we looked at Patrick,” Gibbs recalled. “We think he’s going to have a terrific future here and win a ton of games for us. Having said that … we’ve always felt that was one position where you can’t afford to have one football player or even be worried at all.”

Brunell, 33, fit Gibbs’ desire for a veteran complement, and Redskins players noticed some of the elder passer’s traits in just one workout.

“He showed his leadership in the huddle, and he talked to the guys,” wide receiver Laveranues Coles said. “You could see that he’s a leader and a veteran guy, somebody who’s going to take control.”

In practice, Brunell demonstrated his characteristic touch on a number of throws, and afterward he again made it clear that he has every intention of starting. Asked about Gibbs’ history of winning three Super Bowls with three different starting quarterbacks, Brunell didn’t wait for the query to end before saying, “I hope it’s four very soon.”

But he also expressed praise for Ramsey, calling the young passer’s future “bright” and labeling him “a good football player and a good person.”

Ramsey, in turn, was upbeat about Brunell and the hours they’ve already shared while studying Gibbs’ offense at Redskin Park.

“I think we both understand the situation,” Ramsey said. “There’s been no tension. He’s a great guy. I enjoy being around him. We’ve spent a lot of time together the past two weeks, at least four or five hours a day.”

All that good cheer, however, won’t stifle the passions of fans and teammates, whose inflamed passions could drive a quarterback controversy in the summer and fall. The battle should intensify in the next minicamp, scheduled for shortly after the April 24-25 draft, when Ramsey, who felt no pain yesterday, expects to participate fully.

When that time comes, Gibbs believes pure competition will settle any debate.

“The good thing about that position, they’re going to get to play a whole bunch, and I think that’s where you really find out,” Gibbs said.

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