- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

Criticized by media, booed by fans and harassed by opposing defenses, Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell won’t get discouraged.

“I’ve played a long time, and I’ve had a lot of success,” said Brunell, who at the midpoint of the season is among the NFL’s lowest-ranked passers. “I’m certainly not going to let [eight] games of not having the statistics that I want take any confidence away from me. I’m very confident in what I can do and how I can play this game.”

Although fans appear likely to demand Brunell’s benching in favor of backup Patrick Ramsey during Sunday’s game against Cincinnati at FedEx Field, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs continues to give the beleaguered quarterback his full support. And Gibbs says he isn’t worried about Brunell’s confidence being rattled.

“I’d grade him as No.1 on my list as far as confidence,” the coach said. “He’s been around forever. He’s battle-tested. I think he understands you go through these things. I think he’s the kind of guy who can handle it. None of us likes it. We’re all frustrated by it. But I think he’s handled everything very well.”

In an attempt to light a fire under Washington’s moribund passing game, which ranks 30th in the 32-team NFL, the Redskins have added an extra 10-minute period at the start of daily practice to work specifically on passing plays in this week’s game plan.

The hope is that Brunell, who is completing a paltry 51.1 percent, will feel more comfortable in the pocket when each particular passing play is called Sunday.

Gibbs suggested he’s likely to ask Brunell to make more throws against the Bengals than he did last week in Detroit — the coach called for just two passes from his quarterback in the second half of a 17-10 win — because of the ability of Cincinnati’s offense to score points of its own. And Brunell insists he’s up to the challenge.

“This has been one of the toughest, probably the toughest, first halves of the season I’ve ever had,” Brunell said. “But like we’ve said from the beginning, you keep plugging away, you keep working and believe it’s going to happen. And I really do. We’ve got a lot of football left. We’ve got good players, we really do. We’ll get this thing going.”

Numbers crunch

The Redskins have declared linebacker LaVar Arrington (knee), defensive end Phillip Daniels (groin) and kicker John Hall (groin) out for Sunday’s game. Though linebacker Mike Barrow (knee) is listed as questionable, it remains unlikely that he’ll be ready to make his season debut.

Those injured players, however, remain on Washington’s 53-man roster, and it’s beginning to cause problems. Though he would like to have more active players available for practices and games, Gibbs has no roster spots to work with.

“We’re so hurt,” he said. “We’re carrying two kickers right now. We’re down to four tight ends. You’ve got a real problem trying to get players up. I think this past week, we may have had the highest payroll in the history of sports sitting on the bench. When you’re in a situation like that, you’re scrambling to get a spot.”

The Redskins have considered placing one or more of the ailing players on injured reserve but doing so would officially end their seasons. For now, the club continues to believe all of those players will be healthy and able to contribute before the season gets too old.

“It’s driving us all crazy,” Gibbs said. “We’ve got a tremendous amount of talent that we’re not getting to use. I haven’t been through a year quite like this, I don’t think, where I had so many high-profile guys not getting to play.”

Extra points

Arrington is scheduled to return today from Birmingham, Ala., where he spent four days having his knee examined by Dr. James Andrews and his team of specialists. Redskins director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer said the doctors discovered no new ailments — Arrington, who has not played since Week2, has a bone bruise — but the linebacker is still scheduled to undergo a follow-up MRI this week.

“He’s had a good few days down there,” Tyer said. “He’s worked real hard. They’ve had him in double sessions. And the doctor’s very optimistic about him.” …

An MRI taken Monday on Daniels’ re-injured groin revealed no new tears, but the defensive end will not play Sunday and likely will miss a couple more games. …

Hall also remains a ways from returning from his groin pull, which already has knocked the kicker out of Washington’s last three games. “I’m frustrated a little with how long it’s taken,” said Hall, who has been replaced by Ola Kimrin. “To never have missed a game in your career, then you miss three, it’s not easy to take.”

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