Brunell 'psyched' to be starting again

Updated: September 14, 2005, 9:32 AM ET
Associated Press

ASHBURN, Va. -- For a while, Mark Brunell has been telling anyone who would listen that he can still play, that last year's awful season wasn't a true reflection of his skills.

Mark Brunell
Quarterback
Washington Redskins
Profile
2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Att Comp PaTD RuTD Int Rat
14 8 0 0 0 70.5

Now he gets a chance to prove it.

The beneficiary of one of the quickest hooks imaginable was full of smiles Tuesday as he relaxed at Redskins Park with his wife and children. It was supposed to be a day off, but the new starting quarterback arrived in the morning to study film and later welcomed children from a local hospital for a tour around the building.

The real work starts Wednesday, when Brunell gets a first look at the game plan for the Washington Redskins' Monday night matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.

"I am psyched," Brunell said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's a great opportunity to get back in there. It's obviously a big challenge, playing the Cowboys at their place Monday night."

Nowhere to be seen was Patrick Ramsey, who planned to come by and get an early start on the week if he were still the starter. Ramsey's hold on the job lasted only three series in Sunday's 9-7 victory over the Chicago Bears. A minor neck injury sidelined him in the second quarter, but he was ready to re-enter the game at halftime -- only to be told Brunell would stay in.

On Monday, coach Joe Gibbs told Ramsey that Brunell is now the starter.

"He's hanging in there," said right tackle Jon Jansen, one of Ramsey's closest friends. "He's obviously disappointed, as I'm sure any of us would be in that situation. But it's not his choice, it's Coach's choice."

Ramsey's months with the team are probably numbered. The 2002 first-round draft pick has been undermined twice by Gibbs -- the coach traded for Brunell last year and traded up to draft Jason Campbell in the first round this year -- so Ramsey knew this was his last good chance to secure the starting position long-term. There was even a report that Ramsey has already requested a trade, but Jansen didn't give it any credence after speaking to Ramsey.

"I don't think that's something that Patrick has said at all or entertained," Jansen said.

Ramsey had an interception and two fumbles in his limited playing time Sunday, but Gibbs showed much more patience last year with Brunell. Brunell made nine starts and put up some of the worst stats in the league before Ramsey took over, and the question became whether the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback was at the end of his career.

But Brunell was hampered by a hamstring injury and a flawed offense. Gibbs, having just come out of retirement, was a decade behind the rest of the league and didn't start to modernize until late in the season, after Ramsey had taken over.

This year, Brunell looks revitalized. The 35-year-old legs are healthy again, and the offense is more to his liking.

"It's night and day," Brunell said. "We've got different personnel. Our system's changed. We've got a lot of talent. We've got a good start, 1-0. Things have come a long way since 12 months ago."

Brunell cracked a joke when he entered the huddle for the first time Sunday to ease the tension, and did just enough to win the game, leading three field goal drives against a team the Redskins were supposed to beat. He'll need to play better than he did against the Bears to placate the fans who booed him so doggedly a year ago.

"That kind of criticism will continue until we turn things around here," Brunell said. "I'm still not reading the papers. Nothing changes around here until we start scoring some points and winning."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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