QB Ramsey has guarded optimism

He likes Redskins' plan for more pass protection

Pro Football

August 01, 2004|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Last year, the most common adjectives associated with Washington Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey seemed to begin with "B."

As in "battered," "bruised" and "beaten."

As the team opened training camp yesterday before about 5,000 fans, Ramsey was bullish about a new pass-protection system under coach Joe Gibbs that the quarterback hopes will keep him from again being perpetually black and blue.

"We're really working very hard on the blitz pickups and individual roles as far as protection is concerned," Ramsey said after the team's morning workout. "We can combat a lot of blitzes that I think were tough for us to beat last year."

Keeping the quarterbacks on their feet is a key for a team that, under departed coach Steve Spurrier, allowed nearly three sacks a game. There were some memorably ugly games: the six sacks endured against Tampa Bay and the hits that knocked Ramsey from the first Dallas game - twice.

Those sacks are now mere memories, albeit painful ones.

Ramsey underwent successful surgery on his right foot in December, injuries to his non-throwing hand have healed, and he believes he has warded off any jitters from last season's pounding that could affect his ability to remain poised in the pocket.

"Today one time I threw a long route to Taylor [Jacobs] and I felt the pocket around me and I felt pretty comfortable, and I didn't feel like I was jittery in there," Ramsey said. "If it did get to me eventually during the season last year, then I feel like I'm certainly getting my presence back."

But it took awhile after last season for Ramsey to get his feet comfortably back under him.

"Really it wasn't until the last minicamp or coaching session - those last two weeks we had - where I really thought I was healthy," the third-year player said. "It took me longer to heal up following that season than it ever has in any other season."

Mark Brunell, who is vying with Ramsey to start at quarterback, wasn't around last season to witness the carnage. He was with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he served primarily as a backup to Byron Leftwich.

Brunell, 33, has suggested he wouldn't have been so willing to sign with Washington had he been coming to a system where, like last year, the quarterback was scampering prey.

"I'm a real big fan of protecting the quarterback, for obvious reasons," Brunell said yesterday. "That seems to be important to him [Gibbs], which is good for my health. We're going to run the football but, at the same time, we're going to throw it. And when we do throw it we have to be smart."

He said the offensive schemes of Gibbs and his assistants are time-tested.

"It's proven, that's the biggest thing. This isn't an experiment. It has worked before in professional football and it's won Super Bowls."

Brunell was asked if he could tolerate standing on the sideline if Ramsey wins the starting job.

"I was real good at it last year," he quipped.

NOTE: Among those vying for a receiving job is speedy former Maryland Terrapin Jafar Williams, an undrafted free agent. He faces stiff competition from a deep pass-catching group led by Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner. "My No. 1 goal is to make the 53-man roster. After that, hopefully I could be on the practice squad to at least get my foot in the door," Williams said.

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