How much more can Ramsey take?

Updated: November 6, 2003, 8:34 AM ET
ESPN

ASHBURN, Va. -- Patrick Ramsey was quick with an answer when asked what the Washington Redskins need to do to win Sunday's game against Seattle.

"I think we have to beat the blitz," he said with a chuckle.

Ramsey's constant pounding is no laughing matter, though, and there is growing concern that it could mar the development of a promising young quarterback.

Ramsey has taken 26 of the Redskins' NFL-high 29 sacks allowed this season and hasn't gone start-to-finish for three straight games. He had to leave the 21-14 loss to Dallas twice -- once to have his bruised forearm X-rayed and once to have his dislocated pinkie popped into place. Both injuries were on his non-throwing arm, so he was able to return to the game.

But at what cost? The second-year quarterback, according to coach Steve Spurrier, has developed a case of happy feet.

"He is sort of running around in the pocket at the times when he should be a little comfortable there," Spurrier said. "I think that's from guys coming free at him. Hopefully, we can get him more trusting the pocket, trusting the protection. To do that, we've got to give him protection."

The maturation of Ramsey is a key not only to this season, but the franchise also expects him to be the long-term solution to the quarterback turmoil of the last 10 years. Although he is young, he has earned respect for his strong arm, intelligence, levelheadedness and his ability to take a hit.

"I think around the league if you would ask who some of the tougher quarterbacks are, you might get Brett Favre and Patrick Ramsey," Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said.

But, sooner or later, the punishment has to take a toll. Even if Ramsey is physically able to run onto the field, at what point does he mentally become a skittish quarterback who looks more at the rushing linemen than his receivers when he's back in the pocket? And what kind of long-term effect could that have on his career?

"You're watching that," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. "If you even think that's beginning to happen, then you change your protections or you go to different plays. Instead of him getting him hit so much, I'd take the ball out of his hands. I'd run the ball."

Much blame has been levied on Spurrier for not taking that approach, for sticking to a pass-orientated offense that hasn't sufficiently accounted for ways to pick up blitzing linebackers and defensive backs. The Cowboys sent everything but the kitchen sink, a pattern of success they copied from previous Washington opponents -- and one sure to be emulated by Seattle and everyone else to come.

"We're trying to protect him," Spurrier said. "We're trying to find a little scheme or two here or there that will help him."

Spurrier has been saying that every week for nearly two months, but left tackle Chris Samuels said this week that the schemes haven't changed much at all.

Many NFL offenses beat the blitz by using the "hot read" -- a quick throw to an advantageous one-on-one matchup -- but that's not Spurrier's style. The topic is so sensitive that the coach told his players not to discuss it Wednesday.

Still, Ramsey professes unqualified support for Spurrier's system, even though conventional wisdom now has the coach not lasting beyond this season. The Redskins (3-5) have lost four straight and are ranked 22nd in offense.

"You can't question it," Ramsey said. "We're running the system. It's been successful. We've just got to find a way to make that happen."

Ramsey also denied that he is becoming tentative.

"I can't play the game that way," Ramsey said. "I can't play the quarterback position effectively and be tentative about the rush."

The only backup on the active roster is Tim Hasselbeck, who threw his first three NFL passes when Ramsey left the game temporarily against the Cowboys. If he hopes to save the season, Spurrier has no choice but to stick with Ramsey.

How much more can Ramsey take?

"I'm going to try to continue until I can't go anymore," Ramsey said. "And I don't think I'm close to that yet. ... I'm just fortunate enough not to have suffered a broken bone or anything of that nature. It's just things I can play through."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index