Gibbs names his leader, Brunell named starter

Mark Brunell handled it like a veteran, refusing to gloat about the turnaround in his fortunes over the last 10 months. Patrick Ramsey handled it like a vet as well, refusing to let the loss of a starting job diminish what he can do -- this season and in the future.

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs told both players on Saturday that Brunell would open the season as the starter. If Gibbs' past is any indication, it would take an awful lot for him to remove Brunell.

Brunell earned the job one season after a frustrating one for him in Jacksonville. He opened the season as the starter, but hurt his elbow in September. He wound up starting only three games that year as Byron Leftwich replaced him. In the offseason, the Jaguars traded him to Washington for a third-round pick.

But Brunell did not take today's news as vindication.

''That's behind me,'' he said. ''This is a nice opportunity for me. But what's in the past will stay there.''

Gibbs didn't say too much about why he chose Brunell over Ramsey, though it was clear in the preseason games that the latter had struggled, making the choice easy. But Gibbs went out of his way to soothe any bad feelings by Ramsey. When asked what Brunell did to earn the job over Ramsey, Gibbs spent the next minute or so talking about what he likes about Ramsey.

It's no surprise: Gibbs is sensitive toward Ramsey on this matter, knowing he'll need the third-year quarterback at some point.

''I think the world of Patrick,'' Gibbs said. ''I told Patrick I doubt I would be here if I didn't think he could play. I thought Patrick played extremely well [in 2003]. He's tough and smart. I look forward to working with him. But at this point, right now, Mark should start for us.''

Know this about Ramsey: he's a fierce competitor. But he also knows he's only in his third season. And he knew that this preseason was not his best. In many ways he was like a rookie again, having to learn another new offense -- and one very, very different than what he had played under the past two years.

''Obviously I'm disappointed,'' he said. ''I think there are things I could have done better. This is the result of that. Mark played well and I fully support him. He'll assume his role and I'll assume mine. Hopefully he plays well and never gets hurt.

''[Not starting] would be a bigger adjustment had I been in this offense for a couple years. At this point I can still learn and watch.''

Gibbs said one reason he named Brunell the starter now is to give him more time with the receivers. Their timing needs to improve and they hope an extra week of heavy reps in practice.

''It's necessary,'' Brunell said. ''When you have a rotation with the receivers and quarterbacks, it's tough to get work. . . . this is a [relief]. It's nice to be at this point with one preseason game left. I hope this is something we can launch into the regular season.''

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