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Redskins Bring Back Wuerffel

Team Also Talking With Tight End Walls

By Mark Maske

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, August 4, 2003; Page D01

The Washington Redskins re-signed quarterback Danny Wuerffel yesterday to compete with Rob Johnson for the job as the primary backup to starter Patrick Ramsey, Coach Steve Spurrier said.

The club also was in final negotiations with former Pro Bowl tight end Wesley Walls, who was set to choose between the Green Bay Packers and Redskins last night or today, sources said. The Redskins yesterday increased their offer to Walls, and he eliminated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from consideration, according to sources.

Wuerffel, 29, signed a one-year contract, apparently for the league-minimum salary of $530,000 for players with his NFL tenure. The 1996 Heisman Trophy winner for Spurrier at the University of Florida spent last season with the Redskins, alternating with Shane Matthews and Ramsey as the starter. He had been out of work as an unrestricted free agent. But Spurrier always had left open the possibility of re-signing him, and Wuerffel had been scheduled to leave his home in New Orleans yesterday for a workout with the Seattle Seahawks.

"This gives us a little more depth at quarterback," Spurrier said. "He knows Patrick is our guy. He knows our system, and he played pretty well for us at times. . . . Most NFL teams have like one rookie quarterback. We felt like we needed a player in there who knows our system."

The Redskins released rookie quarterback Brad Banks, last season's Heisman Trophy runner-up from Iowa who had struggled throwing the ball in practices. Rookie Gibran Hamdan, a seventh-round draft choice from Indiana, also is in camp.

Wuerffel, who is scheduled to be on the practice field today, was traveling from New Orleans yesterday and was not available to comment. Asked whether the Seahawks' interest in Wuerffel had forced the Redskins' hand, his agent Michael Moye, said: "That's speculation."

Johnson signed a two-year, $2 million contract in March to serve as Ramsey's backup. The former Buffalo Bills starter, a backup with Tampa Bay last season, has been inconsistent in practices, however, and Spurrier and his assistants have been working on the veteran's throwing mechanics. Johnson also is adjusting to Spurrier's offensive system after spending his career in West Coast offenses. He did not object to Wuerffel's return, though.

"I look forward to the competition, actually," he said. "You kind of figured that was going to happen because we had two young kids and a young starter. Usually when you have a young starter, they have two veterans behind him. This makes sense."

Ramsey said he spoke to Wuerffel yesterday and is pleased to have him back.

"Danny was huge for me last year," Ramsey said. "He was competing with me for the starting job last year and he was very giving and very helpful. That's the kind of person he is and the kind of person he always will be. I'm just excited to have him back for me as a resource, but Rob's been great for me as well."

Wuerffel completed 58 of 92 passes for 719 yards, with three touchdowns and six interceptions, last season. He made four starts in seven games. His season ended when he reinjured his shoulder against the New York Giants.

He always seemed to be the Redskins' fall-back plan if they needed help at the position during the season this year, but Spurrier didn't wait that long. He said it's possible that both Johnson and Wuerffel will be on his season-opening roster behind Ramsey, with Hamdan perhaps being nudged to the practice squad.

"We just felt like this strengthened our team," Spurrier said. "We feel like we'll be a better team with Danny Wuerffel on the Redskins."

Walls, 37, who was released by the Carolina Panthers in February, worked out for the Redskins on Thursday, and team officials were sufficiently impressed by the five-time Pro Bowl selection that owner Daniel Snyder contacted agent Jimmy Sexton and attempted to sign Walls on the spot. Walls resisted, making a scheduled trip to Green Bay to work out for the Packers on Friday.

The Packers had the lure of allowing Walls to stay in a West Coast offense, but the Redskins wanted him to potentially upgrade a tight end corps that includes Zeron Flemister, Robert Royal and Leonard Stephens. The Redskins had to fight against the perception that the tight end is not a regular pass-catching target in Spurrier's offense, but team officials told Walls that he was a capable receiver who would have plenty of throws coming his way. Snyder explored the possibility of signing Ernie Conwell at one point in the offseason, but the Redskins' interest faded and the free agent signed a five-year, $8 million contract with the New Orleans Saints.

Walls had a career-high 63 catches for the Panthers in 1999 and has 430 receptions in a 14-year NFL career that also included stints with the San Francisco 49ers and the Saints. He slipped to 19 catches last season, but the Redskins thought Thursday that his skills had not eroded too much and were impressed when they timed him at 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

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