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.
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.
"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
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
"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