John Beck was again early to the practice field. Then, when rain interrupted the Washington Redskins’ practice Wednesday afternoon, Beck stood outside the team facility beneath an overhang, waiting for the weather to clear.
Waiting is something to which he’s become accustomed.
He’s 30 years old and hasn’t taken an NFL snap since 2007. After losing the preseason quarterback competition to Rex Grossman, he’ll have to wait a bit longer for his opportunity.
“I’ve been trying to climb the mountain ever since I got in this league,” Beck said Wednesday in his first public comments since Coach Mike Shanahan awarded Grossman the starting job. “And I know there’s going to be obstacles, there’s going to be times you slip and fall. I never look at them as I’m down and out. I just look at them as, all right, that’s an obstacle, I’ll get over it, I’ll keep moving ahead.”
Beck didn’t try to hide his disappointment. He had prepared himself mentally to be the starting quarterback. “I planned on being the guy,” he said. “That was my mind-set.”
As the team prepares for Sunday’s season opener against the New York Giants, Beck now must accept his backup role.
“I knew a decision was going to have to be made,” Beck said. “One of us was going to be the guy and the other one was going to be [angry]. I was the guy that was [angry]. But I’m not going to let that disturb me. I don’t want that to hold me back from anything.”
As Washington’s No. 2 quarterback, Beck is actually higher on the depth chart than he had been the past several seasons. He also knows that he’s just one play away from assuming the starting job. While Shanahan stressed that he evaluates his players week to week, he also said that he hopes to use Grossman for the entire year.
“You make decisions that are based for the season,” Shanahan said. “When you pick a guy out, you’re not going to say, ‘I think he’s going to fail.’ You’re hoping he’s going to be very successful.”
But the coach has said repeatedly he has every confidence that Beck is capable of leading his offense. If Grossman struggles, Shanahan seems to be comfortable with his Plan B. Things happen in the NFL. Last season, only five teams had the same quarterback for every offensive snap: Baltimore, Houston, Indianapolis, the New York Giants and St. Louis.
In his 15 years as a head coach, Shanahan has been able to use a single quarterback for every snap of a season just once — Jake Plummer in 2004. In eight of those seasons, he had to start at least two quarterbacks at some point. In 2003, he used four starters.
“I have to be ready,” Beck said. “And I’m going to be ready if something happens.”
His teammates say that was apparent quickly this week. They were informed on Monday that Grossman would be starting but didn’t notice any difference in Beck.
“I'm sure he’s disappointed, but no one’s seen it out of him,” wide receiver Donte Stallworth said. “He’s coming to work, preparing like he’s the starter still.”
Beck said he allowed himself 11 /2 days over the weekend to dwell on the bad news, but he has remained upbeat at Redskins Park, jovial in the locker room, chatty in meetings and eager in practice.
“He’s handled it in a very professional manner,” Grossman said. “His attitude has not changed one bit. He’s a good person and good teammate. So everything’s normal on that front.”
Beck said he “can’t waste time thinking about the what-ifs,” but repeated that he wished his performance in last Thursday’s final preseason game had gone better. But Beck said he didn’t think that outing alone cost him the competition. Coaches were fair throughout the process, he said, considering each quarterback’s entire body of preseason work.
“There’s always things I could’ve done better. No question,” Beck said. “I felt like there was a lot of times out there when I would see something or go through something, which was a newer experience. All right, now I can take that back and I can improve on it.
“They were all good experiences. The one thing I’m not going to do is let this hold me back from what I can do in the future. I gave it everything I had. That, I’m not ever going to question. I prepared myself as best I could for every situation.”
Beck said he intends to meet with coaches and “put a plan together for how I’m going to get better.” While Beck and Grossman split reps with the first-team offense throughout the preseason, that will no longer be the case. As the Redskins hit the field for regular season practices, Grossman will see the vast majority of reps with the starters. Beck likely will run the scout team and only occasionally work with the first-team offense.
But Beck will continue preparing, studying, trying to improve — and waiting for his opportunity.
“I’ve been through a lot in my life,” Beck said. “This isn’t the first time I’ve faced difficult times,” he said. “So it’s just, lean on the things I know will get me through and will help me be a better player. I know that although it didn’t go well, I can learn a lot from this.”