The Washington Redskins performed another quarterback reshuffling yesterday, with Coach Steve Spurrier opting to go with veteran Shane Matthews ahead of rookie Patrick Ramsey for Sunday night's game against the Indianapolis Colts at FedEx Field, and made a move to repair their fractured offensive line by signing Tre Johnson, their former Pro Bowl guard who had been out of the NFL since being released by the Cleveland Browns before the season.
Johnson said he signed a contract for the remainder of this season after being summoned to Redskins Park from his home in Mitchellville to undergo a physical and work out for club officials. He said he thinks he can learn Spurrier's offense in a week or two and intends to move into the starting lineup. If he does, it appears that he will be blocking for Matthews, who becomes Spurrier's starting quarterback once more after Ramsey suffered through a six-sack, five-fumble performance in Sunday's 30-9 loss at Green Bay that dropped the Redskins' record to 2-4.
Spurrier, who will have changed starters three times in seven games by Sunday, told his players during their weekly team meeting that Matthews would be the starter for the rest of the season.
"Overall, we believe Shane Matthews gives our team the best chance to win games, simple as that," Spurrier said. "Nobody is mad at anybody. We just feel like that's the direction to go right now. Shane is our quarterback. . . . He's the guy that takes us however far we go this year. Barring injury, he's got the opportunity to be our quarterback. We're going to try to settle it."
Matthews started the first three games before being benched in favor of Danny Wuerffel, because of a sputtering offense and a bruised left shoulder and back. Wuerffel lasted only one series before suffering a sprained and bruised right shoulder, and Ramsey took over and led the Redskins to a 31-14 triumph at Tennessee on Oct. 6.
But the first-round draft choice threw four interceptions -- three in the first quarter -- and was sacked seven times in a 43-27 defeat at home to the New Orleans Saints nine days ago. Ramsey completed only 10 of 24 passes for 135 yards against the Packers, and Spurrier had to resist suggestions by his assistants to go to Matthews during the game.
"I'm disappointed in my performance more so than the decision," Ramsey said. "Coach is in charge of this ship, and it's his decision to make. I didn't play well, and this is the way he chose to go. I had chances to make some plays [Sunday], and I just didn't do it."
Ramsey said his confidence was not shaken, and Spurrier indicated that the rookie will be Matthews's primary backup, with Wuerffel still unable to throw because of his ailing shoulder.
"Patrick has had three games," Spurrier said. "He did well the first game, and since then it just hasn't worked out. He's obviously not as prepared as he should be. As coaches, we've not done a very good job getting him ready to play as a true rookie. . . . Patrick needs three or four preseason games and a lot of training, and we still believe he's going to be an outstanding quarterback. But right now a lot of stuff is happening . . . and we just feel like the veteran guy, with his experience and his ability, gives us the best chance."
Matthews, who was named the NFC offensive player of the week after throwing three touchdown passes in the season-opening win over the Arizona Cardinals, left Redskins Park without speaking to reporters. Spurrier also has gone through a rotating set of starting wide receivers as he continues to search for a combination that will get his offense moving consistently.
"When you have star players that play well every week, then obviously you don't have any shuffling to do," Spurrier said. "But when you're trying to find out who all your best players are, to me, you have to give them all an opportunity. We're six games in now. We think we know a little bit about who our best players are. But that's the way I've always coached: If the guy out there is not getting it done, then the next player gets his chance. That's what we try to do, and we come back to them. We don't fire them forever, as you can see."
Johnson, 31, played for Washington from 1994 to 2000. He made the Pro Bowl in 1999 but had his 2000 season ended after four games by a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. He was released by Redskins then-coach Marty Schottenheimer and signed with the Browns, but had his 2001 season ended after only three games by another knee injury.
He had returned from a torn quadriceps muscle this past summer when the Browns released him after Cleveland officials said they didn't feel he could remain healthy. But the middle of the Redskins' offensive line is in disarray, and team officials believed that signing Johnson was worth the risk. They contacted agent Greg Ray late last week to alert him that Johnson could be called in for a workout this week. Johnson had a recent workout with Tampa Bay but wasn't signed by the Buccaneers.
"I definitely need to familiarize myself with the Redskins all over again," Johnson said. "It's like coming to a new team. But, you know, I get to play ball again. It's all good."
Johnson met with Spurrier yesterday and said he was surprised that Spurrier remembered coaching him in a college all-star game. He watched game tapes with offensive line coach Kim Helton. The Redskins, who will have to release a player today to clear a roster spot, started David Loverne at left guard and Wilbert Brown at right guard in Green Bay. They hope to have their usual starting right guard, Brenden Stai, back this week after he was sidelined by patella tendinitis in his left knee this past Sunday, and Spurrier said veteran Kipp Vickers likely will receive more playing time.
Soon, the Redskins could have another option. Johnson said his knees "feel fine" but he must get into football-playing shape.
"I think everybody in the NFL right now is starting to hit that hump," Johnson said. "They're tired. It's that four weeks of the preseason plus . . . five or six weeks or whatever this is of [regular season] football. I'm going to be a lot fresher than they are. I'll be rusty, and that will be a negative tradeoff on my side. But I'd rather be fresh any day."