By Howard Bryant and Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Mark Brunell spent his 36th birthday Sunday night running for his life, especially in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys. With the Redskins trailing by 17 points and needing to throw on virtually every down, Brunell was sacked four times in the final period.
Yesterday, Brunell was at his most testy of this young season. A reporter greeted him with the question: "How does it feel to be 36 and washed up?" But Brunell was not in the mood for any questions about his age, nor for any questions related to the pressure of trying to turn around a football team with great expectations but, thus far, poor results.
"You know what? How about we talk about football, the Texans or something like that?" Brunell said. "When you're 0-2, you're 0-2 as a team. You've got to do your job better. Each guy has to take some responsibility and play better on game days. It starts with the quarterback and goes all the way through. We're making some mistakes all over the place. I think it's going to get fixed. It's early."
In two losses, Brunell has completed 35 of 61 passes for 360 yards and an interception. He has been sacked six times, all against Dallas. Brunell said he isn't motivated by anything except winning.
"I'm not out there to prove anybody wrong. That's not my job," Brunell said. "My job is to do what I can do to help us win. Like I said, I understand there's a lot of stuff that's being said, I haven't paid attention to them. All I can focus on is leading this team and getting us on track and winning a football game, just one football game now."
While his teammates recognized that the team's poor start can be attributed to breakdowns in several areas -- third-down defense, big plays on defense and key penalties, for example -- it was also pointed out by Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs that the quarterback is the only player who is always in jeopardy of being replaced. For his part, Gibbs said on Monday and again yesterday at no point did he consider replacing Brunell.
"You kind of watch him on film, his arm, is it live? Does it seem like he gets things done?" Gibbs said. "There are two ways of looking at it. One: You've got a veteran guy that people like because he's been around a bunch and knows what to do, so he's smart. He should play smart. The other side is, an older guy . . . it's going to count against him. It's part of the negatives. But you've got to take the pluses too. He had a good year last year, actually had more downfield passes of over 20 yards of anybody in the league, that's throwing the ball past 20 yards, not throwing short and running. And had one of his best years. You have to look at that, too."
Wide receiver Santana Moss said that now is not the time for the Redskins to turn on their quarterback.
"Mark is that dude, he knows how to win games. So regardless of what someone has to say about him, I'm always going to back him because when it all falls apart, I've seen him win games for us," Moss said. "That's what he's been showing. For anyone else to not see that, they haven't been watching the games we've been watching or playing in. That's our dude. I'm riding with him till his wheels fall off."Springs Strains Groin
Shawn Springs was on the practice field for the first time since he underwent abdominal surgery on Aug. 14, but his return was short-lived. The cornerback pulled up suddenly while running backward during individual drills and left the field with a mild groin strain.
Director of Sports Medicine Bubba Tyer said that the injury is not related to the earlier surgery. The current soreness is about five inches down his right leg, away from the surgery area.
"He's been doing fantastic for three weeks," Tyer said. "Shawn is very disappointed. I am, too, because we've done much more work in his rehab and in drills than what happened today in practice."
Initially, the plan was to have Springs do more at practice as the week went on, with the hope that he would be able to participate in a few plays on Sunday in Houston. Now, Springs will be reevaluated on Thursday, and he is listed as questionable on the injury report.
Defensive tackle Joe Salave'a was the only player who did not practice yesterday; he is questionable with a calf injury. Running back Clinton Portis (shoulder) and Moss (hip) are listed as probable, though Portis did not miss any part of practice (the first time he's done that since his injury). Moss was rested for certain parts of practice and is expected to play on Sunday.