- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Mark Brunell still believes.

The Washington Redskins quarterback yesterday expressed confidence about his NFL future even as he began a stint behind Patrick Ramsey, a three-year pro who will start Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles and for the foreseeable future.

Brunell turned 34 in September and has lost 18 of his past 24 NFL starts, including six of nine with the Redskins. But when asked whether this might be the end, he replied optimistically.

“No, I don’t think so,” Brunell said. “I feel real good about how I can play. It hasn’t worked out this first nine games, of course. But I still have a lot of confidence. I’ve had a lot of success in this league. The body feels good. It’s always one week at a time and one season at a time.”

Speculation is starting to swirl in the wake of Brunell’s drop to the bottom of the NFL in completion percentage (49.8), yards per attempt (5.04) and rating (63.9). He has six seasons left on the $43million contract he signed with the Redskins in March, but he could find himself looking for work this spring if coach Joe Gibbs decides to move on.

Gibbs, however, disputed the idea that Brunell’s tenure in Washington has failed. And when asked whether Brunell would have a role on the team next year, Gibbs replied, “Yeah. I would say for several years.

“Certainly I don’t think he is the only person who’s keeping us from moving the ball on offense,” Gibbs added. “We’ve got a little bit of everything going on there. What’s his role going to be? He’s going to have a lot to say about that.”

Gibbs ignores spitting

As safety Sean Taylor awaited word from the NFL on whether he would be fined for spitting on Cincinnati Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Gibbs continued to plead ignorance with regard to the situation.

The incident occurred on Washington’s onside kick in the fourth quarter Sunday. Taylor spit on Houshmandzadeh, who became agitated and after the game called Taylor a “punk.” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis later referenced a spitting incident but didn’t name the offender. A source familiar with the incident later identified Taylor.

Gibbs hasn’t attempted to discuss the incident with Taylor or review tape to see what actually occurred. The coach continued to speak positively about Taylor, whose brief tenure with the Redskins includes a DUI arrest, a skipped day of the rookie symposium and several agent switches.

“I don’t have a clue what happened here,” Gibbs said. “We’ve got to be careful. I don’t know about this. We dealt with the things earlier in the year. Sean’s been excellent. He’s studying, playing. He’s a rookie learning all kinds of things. We think he’s going to be a very valuable part of the Redskins.”

Players generally receive word of fines on Wednesdays or Thursdays, and the league announces punishments on Fridays. One source familiar with league operations said Taylor might escape punishment because there needs to be visual proof of a violation. Spitting, the source said, often doesn’t show up on game tape.

Injury update

Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin was held out of practice because of his hip flexor. Although the club listed him probable, he wasn’t quite as optimistic.

“It’s still real sore and tender,” Griffin said. “Maybe I’ll get on the field tomorrow. … Hopefully, I’ll be ready by Sunday.”

Linebacker LaVar Arrington (knee), defensive end Phillip Daniels (groin) and kicker John Hall (groin) were listed as out. Linebacker Mike Barrow (knee) is officially questionable but sounds unlikely to play.

Cornerback Fred Smoot didn’t practice with a sore shoulder and sprained finger, but he’s expected to play Sunday. Wide receiver Rod Gardner twisted his ankle in practice but was confident he would play.

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