By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Starting quarterback Mark Brunell will undergo an MRI exam on his sprained right medial collateral ligament tomorrow and could miss the Washington Redskins' season finale at Philadelphia next week with a playoff berth on the line. If so, Patrick Ramsey will get his first start since the season opener.
Brunell, who was enjoying a renaissance at age 35, was sacked violently early in the second half of Washington's 35-20 defeat of the New York Giants yesterday at FedEx Field and did not return.
Athletic trainers put a brace on his right knee and Brunell tried to throw on the sideline, but told the team he could not return to the field. Ramsey played well for the remainder of the game. Brunell, who took a direct hit from linebacker Nick Greisen in his lower leg, was limping after the game and declined to comment. Coach Joe Gibbs said it may take two days to assess the extent of any damage; the players are off until Wednesday, and Ramsey may end up getting more of the reps at practice.
"We'll have to see how it responds to being injured," said Bubba Tyer, the Redskins' director of sports medicine. "We'll see the MRI and take a look at that, but we're not going to rush into it. It's a sprained MCL, and we'll see how badly it's sprained."
Ramsey completed 5 of 7 pass attempts for 104 yards and hit wide receiver Santana Moss for a 72-yard touchdown pass -- the longest of Ramsey's career -- on his third attempt of the game. Ramsey had not appeared in a game since playing out the final minutes of a 36-0 loss at New York on Oct. 30, although he entered the season as the starter before being removed in the second quarter of the first game. While executives around the league expect Ramsey to be elsewhere next season -- given his benching and the selection of quarterback Jason Campbell in the first round of the 2005 draft -- Washington rebuffed trade overtures from the New York Jets early in the season and Gibbs has continually told the youngster how vital he could be should Brunell go down.
"I told him that he's one play away," Gibbs said. "He's at one of the most important positions on our football team. That's the reason that during the year we put a lot of attention into our quarterbacks. What kind of depth we have is a very big deal."
The possibility exists that Campbell, who has been designated the third quarterback all season, could be the backup next Sunday in Philadelphia, with Ramsey the starter. Brunell is one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league -- he played through a painful hamstring injury last season and has thrived despite various ailments this season -- and his inability to return to this game at such a critical juncture speaks to the possible severity of the injury.
"I was surprised, because Mark's been our iron man this year," Ramsey said "He's done things so well and fought through some injuries with his calf, so I was surprised. But I just try to prepare myself to play at the same time."
Ramsey, 26, was Washington's first-round selection in the 2002 draft, but Gibbs immediately pursued Brunell upon taking over the team before the 2004 season. Brunell started last year but was replaced by Ramsey in midseason after both he and the offense struggled. Ramsey said his past experience running this offense aided his adjustment yesterday, and he may have to call upon that again next weekend. "I think it would have been much different had I never played out there," Ramsey said. "But I've had an opportunity to play and my job is to go out and perform. They expect you to play at this level, and play well."