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Focused and secure, Ramsey leads charge

By Dave Richard


(Aug. 19, 2003) -- Christmas came early for Washington Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey this year. While everyone else will wait until April to play with their new gadgets, he received his gifts during the offseason.

Check out this goodie bag:

A new running back: Trung Canidate

Two new offensive linemen: Randy Thomas and Dave Fiore

A reliable kicker: John Hall

A red-hot, big-play wide receiver: Laveranues Coles

And a promise from head coach Steve Spurrier that effectively says, "Pat, you're the man."

Ramsey knows this -- his boss wants to win the Super Bowl badly, and he plays in one of the league's largest markets with one of the league's most promising rosters. Ramsey knows that if he wants to be a golden NFL quarterback, it's now or never.

"I feel like I'm so much more comfortable here," Ramsey said this offseason. "It's just not a foreign experience anymore -- I don't have to wonder what it's going to be like to go in there and throw a pick or throw a touchdown, or win a game or lose a game. I know all those experiences, I know the ups and I know the downs. I think you have to learn to keep an even-keel through all of it."

Ramsey saw time at quarterback as a rookie last year, playing in nine games and starting five. He was forced into action against the Titans in Week 5, racking up 268 yards and two scores en route to victory. Spurrier was so enamored with Ramsey's play that he named him the starter the following week, where he threw for over 300 yards but also threw four interceptions in a big loss to the Saints.

Patrick Ramsey feels he has the tools to be a great quarterback.

After some more highs (three touchdowns against Philadelphia) and lows (two interceptions against Dallas), Ramsey finished 2002 as the Redskins starter and the definite future at quarterback. The former first-round pick dedicated himself to improving this year, often working out at Redskins Park and impressing coaches with his abilities.

"Last year, I was kind of just playing and trying to make the play we called work," Ramsey explained, "whereas I'm much more comfortable with our offense at this point, and that's due to the coaches' hard work at getting me ready. They felt I was throwing the ball really well and accurately, making good decisions. They reinforced me on every level."

That's their boy. Ramsey has now become the most important quarterback to grace D.C. since Joe Theismann. With the acquisitions made, Ramsey will constantly have teammates with reliable hands and playmaking skills around him.

The Redskins' season hinges on whether or not he can make the passes to those capable hands. If he can, and those players do what they're expected to do, there's no stopping this offense. It will truly be Fun 'n' Gun.

Ramsey is excited at the prospects and knows he's got good people to sling it to.

"(Canidate) can catch," Ramsey said, " Chad Morton catches the ball really well, and we picked up (rookie WR) Taylor Jacobs and now we've got some young receivers who are all fighting for a job and they're all extremely talented, so I have no shortage of targets to throw at."

Of course, Ramsey failed to mention the newcomer who will be a frequent target. Coles was snagged by the Redskins as a restricted free agent from the Jets, which meant sending their No. 1 pick to the Big Apple. Ramsey knows the price his team paid for him to have another deep threat to go alongside last year's 1,000-yard receiver, Rod Gardner.

"I don't think we could have done better than Laveranues, I'll tell you that," a confident Ramsey said. "I think Laveranues brings a speed aspect that not many people in the NFL can bring. As far as separation and the ability to create separation, I think he brings that threat. He also brings the threat of catching a short ball and making something really big happen with it because he's good with the ball in his hands."

It sounds simple enough: Get the ball in your receivers hands and let them do the rest. In a league full of smashmouth, run-the-ball schemes and West Coast offenses, finally here's a game plan that lets the players do what they do best -- make plays. Literally, it's taking the ball and running with it.

Adding to the pressure this season packs is a schedule that offers no easy weeks. Only once this year do the Redskins have consecutive home games while other teams in the league have multiple homestands. Heck, the Broncos, Cardinals, Jaguars, Rams and Ravens have three home games in a row. The Giants won't even leave their own timezone until Week 8!

When asked if he circled any games on his already-hectic schedule, Ramsey replied, "the obvious answer is the conference games. One that I would like to play well in is the New Orleans game because last year I threw for 300-plus yards, but four interceptions in my first start. I'm not going to say that's my target, but I'd like to play better in that football game. I'd like to redeem myself."

Ramsey is also interested in testing his mettle against four very tough defenses -- Tampa Bay, Carolina, Atlanta and Miami. But as every coach says, the next game is the most important game. And for the Redskins, that next game is the first game -- at home, on national TV, against the New York Jets, from whom the 'Skins signed four of their top key players from this offseason. And it's the first NFL game of the 2003 season. It's practically a holiday.

"I think it's going to be fun," Ramsey said. "I think we're all going to be so excited. It's going to be a game where we got a bunch of guys from the Jets on our team so there might be some added incentive for them. Our job will be to stay calm and focused on the fact that we're trying to win the game and beat the team without any personal feelings."

It's a heck of a way to start a season and one that is key for the long-term success of this franchise and for the long-term success of Ramsey. With any luck, he will be Washington's gift that keeps on giving.

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