- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Mark Brunell was introduced by the Washington Redskins yesterday with all the fanfare you’d normally expect for a starting quarterback.

Except for the part where anyone actually named Brunell as the starting quarterback.

In his first public appearance since Washington acquired him from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a third-round draft pick, Brunell was treated like royalty. His late-afternoon news conference at Redskin Park was broadcast live by local TV stations. He posed for the cameras when Gibbs presented him with a burgundy No.8 jersey as his wife, Stacy, sat admiringly in the front row.

Brunell said all the right things, avoiding any potential land mines that his trade to Washington might set off. Though few believed the 33-year-old would sign a seven-year, $43million contract without assurances that he would start, Brunell insisted no such promise was made. (He did say he comes in expecting to win the job.)

He’s also not worried about the possibility of a quarterback controversy with incumbent Patrick Ramsey, only in proving his own worth on the field.

“If you play well, move the team and put points on the board, you have very little to worry about,” Brunell said. “All I can control is what I bring to the table and how I play. I’m going to do whatever I can to take this team to the next level. That’s my focus. To think about anything else is just a distraction.”

As he has done since the trade was finalized two weeks ago, Gibbs reiterated that Brunell and Ramsey, 24, will compete for the starting job. The coach stressed that he has always felt the need to have two reliable quarterbacks on his roster.

“For the football team, and for all of us that are fans and coaches, it’s very important to have that position and not be worried about depth,” Gibbs said. “As we all know, in any given year, you’re probably fortunate if 50 percent of them start all year. This is a reality in the NFL.”

Thus the stage is set for Gibbs’ first minicamp at the end of the month, with Brunell and Ramsey sharing snaps with the first-team offense.

The two new teammates spoke for the first time yesterday, a conversation Brunell described as cordial and only the first step toward building a relationship with Ramsey.

“We’re going to spend hours and hours together in the near future,” Brunell said. “We’ve got a lot in common. He’s going to find that I’m very easy to work with, and I anticipate becoming friends with him. …

“There’s no reason for there to be any tension or anything along those lines. There’s no reason why any two guys competing for the same job can’t get along, can’t work well together, make each other better. We’ll see how that progresses, but I expect it to be a smooth process.”

That process may be smoother from Brunell’s perspective than from Ramsey’s. Upon learning of the Redskins’ decision to acquire a veteran quarterback, Ramsey’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, demanded his client be traded. Owner Dan Snyder informed Sexton no such move would be made.

Washington’s lengthy courtship of Brunell — the club first inquired about him nearly a month ago — gave the three-time Pro Bowl player ample opportunity to get to know his new coach. He and Gibbs spoke daily at one point during the negotiating process.

The two also bonded during a surprise visit to a Jacksonville area hospital Feb.9, when Gibbs was suffering from low insulin levels. Brunell drove the 63-year-old coach to the hospital and kept talking football the whole time.

“Certainly I didn’t want to drive my head coach to the hospital, but we were able to spend two extra hours talking about football,” Brunell said. “So I got to know him a little better.”

Gibbs turned to the quarterback and, with a laugh, asked if he made any sense during his little episode.

“Actually, the physician told me to be careful, you might lose some energy,” Brunell said. “And I thought, what better opportunity to negotiate a contract?”

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