Matthews makes first impression

Rain again greeted a Redskins workout, followed by a few rumbles of thunder. But the Redskins pushed on, the sun finally shining on their practice. What made coach Steve Spurrier feel better, though, was watching his newest quarterback, Shane Matthews, practice. Matthews, signed two weeks ago, took part in his first Redskins workout during Washington's voluntary quarterback school.

FYI: Most players attended the workouts, except for ends Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman, defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, corner Champ Bailey and long snapper Ethan Albright. The workouts resume Wednesday through Friday.

And quarterback Danny Wuerffel attended, but wore a different number. Again. After causing a mini storm by wearing No. 7, Wuerffell officially switched back to 17.

Though Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said the QB competition is wide open, Matthews likely has the best chance to emerge with the job.

Q: What was your first day like?

A: It was fun to be out there. We were in a driving rainstorm for a while and I was a little rusty as expected. I didn't think I'd set the world on fire, but it was good to refresh the memory with the plays. It's a new snap count. I had the same snap count for nine years in the NFL. It will take a while to adjust.

Q: Why do you think the Redskins wanted you?

A: Coach feels comfortable with me. I feel I'm a pretty smart quarterback. When it's open downfield, I'll give it a shot. If not I'll be smart and patient with the ball and don't do anything to hurt the team. When you look at the Redskins on paper, especially on defense, they have an outstanding team. Offensively we have the players who can put points on the board to win games.

Q: Is there any similarities between this offense and the Bears'?

A: None at all. This offense is, 'Hey, take your shots downfield. Look deep and if it's not open, look underneath. It's totally opposite of what I've been playing in for eight, nine years.

Q: Did things start coming back to you?

A: It's changed a little bit. They've added a few plays here and there. But 95 percent of it is the same. But it's been 10 years. It will take some time and won't happen overnight.

Q: Is it more of a mental adjustment?

A: I don't think so. As a quarterback you love to throw the ball around the ballpark. I'm sure I'll hand the ball to Stephen a lot, but coach likes to take chances where a lot of coaches are so conservative. He's not like that at all.

Q: Was Washington your first preference?

A: I think so. I wouldn't be where I am today if not for [Spurrier]. A lot of people don't realize I was fifth string when he got the job at Florida. In one spring practice I went from fifth string to starter and I had three pretty good years under him.

Q: How confident are you that you'll start?

A: Definitely confident. If I didn't feel like I could be the guy I wouldn't be here. There's still a lot of work to be done. I still have to get familiar calling plays like I used to with the snap count. It's tough when you come to the line of scrimmage and all you worry about is making sure to call the snap count correct because I've been doing it differently the last nine years. Once you get comfortable, then you can relax and go play.

Q: Does this feel like a homecoming because of your familiarity with Steve?

A: It is. It's just the atmosphere is totally different than what I've been in. It's just a laid back approach which I really like. That's how I am. That's my personality: Go with the flow.

Q: What about wearing No. 6?

A: It looked good when I looked down, but it's no big deal. Sure I'd love to wear No. 9, but that's in the past. I'll just sign my autographs with a line over it.

Q: Did you talk to Sonny Jurgensen about it?

A: I haven't talked to him since I was going to wear it and then five hours later I wasn't going to wear it. I understand his point of view and the Redskins fans. It's like I told Sonny, 'If I do get to wear it, I'll make sure the Redskins fans know you are the official No. 9 for the Redskins. I'm not sure if a lot of people on the outside realize that athletes get attached to numbers and when you wear a number for 14, 15 years it's hard to wear something else. People may think it's stupid and it kind of is, but it isn't. But I'm No. 6 and I'm ready to play.

Q: Considering you've been close to breaking through the past few years, how anxious are you for this chance?

A: Very anxious. I started for the Bears in '99 when they shocked everybody by cutting Erik Kramer and made me the starter. Then I tore a hamstring against the Vikings and never got back on the field. Last year I started out as the starter and got hurt. Jim Miller played well. It's the luck of the draw. I'm anxious to come in and compete and hopefully be the guy and stay healthy.

Q: Did injuries change the way you approach the offseason?

A: Not at all. I'm not the biggest guy in the world. I would think at my size that I would be getting broken arms and legs. It's always been freak things like a hamstring. I'm not the fastest guy in the world and here I am tearing a hamstring running wide open down the sideline. I broke my thum in the last regular season game when I came down on a helmet.

Q: What was your injury last year?

A: I tore the muscle that holds my rib cage in place on the second play of the game. I stayed in for another quarter and it got worse. I could hardly take a snap.

Q: You seemed to stay underneath during team drills.

A: I guess. I was throwing it to who's open. If you don't throw it to who's open, you're an idiot to throw it down there. I was rusty and didn't want to fumble the snap from center, get the ball in the right hands and go from there. But the plays are the same. It'll take a couple weeks to get familiar with it. You have to relax and play. But I don't have to play next week.

John Keim covers the Redskins for The Journal Newspapers.


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