Q&A With: Zeke Bratkowski

Zeke Bratkowski played quarterback for 14 seasons in the NFL, then coached the position for the next 26. He understands the position. He also spent most of this offseason working with Redskins first-round draft pick Patrick Ramsey, so he understands him, too. Three to four days a week for six weeks the two worked out in New Orleans, focusing on every little detail of the quarterback position. Bratkowski walked away a believer.

Q: What was Patrick like when you first got him?

A: First of all, when you get to meet him, you'll be very impressed because he's very intelligent and very down to Earth and of tremendously high character. He's very intelligent and he's got football intelligence. A lot of people are smart, but he's got football intelligence. He's extremely coachable and he has the basic ingredients of playing the position. He has good height, has a very strong arm and throws a very consistent football. He's very accurate. He can throw the ball on the run, move a little bit. He knows how to put touch on the ball.

We just started with the ABC's of the position, what the demands of the position were and we took each portion of what he would do. His first project was the Senior Bowl. He had been in the shotgun formation a lot so we started working on the three, five and seven-step drops and worked on ball position on his dropback and his shoulder position. We worked with Donte Stallworth, too, so he had quality people to throw to. Patrick was overweight and got into that issue at the Elmwood Fitness Center and he followed what they gave him. He went through that program and totally changed his body. He lost his baby fat and got very flexible and did a lot of speed drills and changed his 40-time. If he doesn't succeed, I don't know what the formula is.

Q: Where has his improved flexibility helped?

A: If your body is more flexible, you can do all the techniques, the twisting and turning and using your body to throw the ball. It's not just one thing, it's a combination of everything. They went after every little muscle and taught him how to strengthen it. Patrick stayed there and worked. The results are just amazing.

Q: What were some things you worked on?

A: I did it from the football standpoint. It wasn't just the fundamentals of throwing. I have a son (Bob) who coaches for the Bengals so I had current NFL tapes and we studied all the down and distance situations that he's going to be into and we covered pass protections and covered the running game and line fronts and pass coverages. He was able to see what the responsibilities are for a quarterback in the NFL. That was our routine. I would meet him after he was through with his physical workouts then we'd do football workouts then came back and either do more workouts or get in the classroom and watch tapes until late in the afternoon. He had a full day every day.

Q: How prepared is he?

A: My advice to him was to get to the training facility as fast as he can and start learning the system and find out what they call the various defenses and start watching tapes just be there. He also has to familiarize himself with the veterans so they get to know him and he can feel comfortable. His priority is to learn the system and he'll have no problem with that because he's very intelligent.

Q: Will that help him adapt quicker than others?

A: When you have someone that smart, obviously he knows how to study and how to take notes. That's a big factor in the evolution of a quarterback. A lot of people look at drops and arm strength, but they have to know how to study. In our first meeting I told him he should have a notebook and write down everything we talk about so he has something to go to in that recall as far as what we're covering. We would stop the tape and look at coverages and look at blitzes. He can relate to a lot. In college, the defenses don't change and they might not be as sophisticated sometimes. But the coverages, zones and man and double zones and blitzes and sight adjustments don't change from college to the pros. It's just a matter of how copmlex the team is. Some NFL teams just run one or two basic coverages and disguise everything around it.

Q: How much will it help him to be with Steve Spurrier?

A: With his experience and success, it will be great. I understand he spends a lot of time with quarterbacks. That's an absolute must. You've got to have someone who understands the position. It's one thing to go to clinics and find out about the quarterback position. But it's another thing for someone who played it and coached it. The understanding of the position is more important than anything. That's the key word. Unless you've been back there with the ball on a five-step drop and knowing what your progressions are, it's hard to coach it. That's where Steve has a tremendous advantage. It's reflected in the success he had in college with a lot of quarterbacks.

Q: What are some of the little things you see in Patrick?

A: We talked about how to look at tape. A lot of people look at the tape and you have to teach them how to look at it. If you do it in sequence of, 'OK, it's the first quarter, first and 10, the ball is on the left hash and the formation is whatever and the defensive front is this. Now look at the coverage.' If you do that over and over and over . . . The quarterback has to look and make sure he sees something. You have to be in the right position under center. You have to know your system and what the fronts and coverages look like to make sure you're seeing the right thing. He's the type of guy who develops quickly. He has the ability to recognize all that stuff.

Q: Did you tweak his mechanics?

A: I never tweak them unless I see something that is out of line and he does not have that. The things we worked on were his drop position, shoulder position--which is a technique and is correctable. We worked hard on that to where he had the ability to look downfield and be in a position to make the throws to the left and right. We worked hard on that.

Q: What did you see when you watched him on tape?

A: Well, I saw his ability to stand under a rush because he got his fanny kicked and he stood in there and got hit and got hit and got hit and showed some pocket movement. He showed a little bit of an escape. He didn't run for a lot of first downs--not a lot can. But he'll stand in there because he's strong and throws the ball accurately.

Q: Is it too hard to predict what he'll do?

A: I don't know what their system is or how complex it is. The thing I was very impressed with that he did was make a tape of him doing all different kinds of pass drops, play-action fakes and naked bootleg fakes and formations and formations with motions to show everyone what his responsibilities were at Tulane. It was excellent. After his workout for the NFL teams he took that tape and put it in the machine and he never stopped talking. He told everyone exactly what his responsibilities were, what formations they were facing and everything. The scouts came out saying, 'Wow.' There's a real art to that. But that was one thing we talked about because the NFL guys are looking for that. I was on the floor at the combine with quarterbacks for 20 years so I felt like I knew what those guys wanted to hear. That gives me an advantage when working with young men. I can tell them what the demands of the NFL will be on their time and they've got to be cooperative and everything.

Q: What demands did you stress to him?

A: I started with training camp and the fact that if you don't understand something in a meeting, make sure you get that position coach and have him tutor you. The same is true on the field. When you stand there next to the coach and the other quarterback is working, you watch what he's doing and what the play call is as if you're the quarterback. Don't waste any time talking to someone else. If you're a rookie, your time will come down the road. If you haven't stayed abreast of what's going on, you get behind. The same holds true for studying. Make sure you take good notes and that includes minicamps so that he has good notes to go back to. You don't want to get behind. Those are the things that are demands in the preseason and during the season that we went through. And the work ethic. It has to be there on Mondays. Most people watch tapes and I suggested you stay there and get a couple of tapes that they feel are best to prepare for you next opponent. Tuesday is an off-day but quarterbacks shouldn't have a day off so you'll have to work a little bit on Tuesdays. I just went through everything.

Q: Any final thoughts on him?

A: He graduated with a 3.5 and two degrees. He has a great family background. He's just a basic young man and he's not going to change. He's just going to keep getting better. He can throw the ball.

John Keim covers the Redskins for The Journal Newspapers. To read his story on Ramsey, log onto www.jrnl.com.

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