Brunell Is Just One Play Away

"I could've played better [last season]. And if I get that chance again, I'd like to show it," said Mark Brunell, now a backup to Patrick Ramsey. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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By Mike Wise
Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Everybody's Favorite Redskin to Pick On came off the practice field last night. Mark Brunell knows there is no open competition for the quarterback job this year. It belongs to Patrick Ramsey, who is at once Brunell's close friend and the most visible impediment to becoming an NFL starter again.

"It's nice to be out there, but every backup -- third string, second string, doesn't matter -- wants to be out there starting," Brunell said.

He is asked about last season. The derisive chants. The benching. The losing.

"It was very tough," Brunell said. "I came up here with high expectations."

He's still here? He's still here.

Here's what Sonny Jurgensen says about quarterbacks and criticism: "It goes with the position. They told me I wouldn't play two weeks here because of my [throwing] motion. You can't let that bother you."

Jurgensen was once booed heartily as he walked onto Franklin Field for the Philadelphia Eagles in a game against Dallas. "It was so bad my teammates were booing me when I came into the huddle," he said. "I threw two interceptions on my first two attempts. It got so ugly, people were coming out of the stands, fighting with the trainer. Before it was over, I threw five touchdowns. I think they cheered moderately."

Brunell caught much of the same flack last year. For much of a 6-10 season, the most irate fans did not want Brunell merely benched; they wanted him abandoned, jettisoned to the curb like a musty sofa unfit for a new home.

When no one could bring themselves to take umbrage with Joe Gibbs's archaic offense, Brunell and his seven-year, $43 million contract became the blocking dummy for every bit of fan frustration. Depending upon which season ticket holder you asked, his arm was either weak, dead or in need of amputation.

Brunell expected the criticism, even some of the name-calling. But the man who yelled "I want my money back" did not bother him as much as the incessant booing at FedEx Field, which grew in volume and intensity each week until Ramsey finally replaced him as the starter in the ninth game.

"The boos, that was the hardest thing," Brunell said. "You know, my kids were up in the stands, hearing all that." Two of his four children were old enough to grasp the venom. "They understood what was happening with their dad."

At least they were spared cruelty in the classroom.

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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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