Old quarterbacks never die. They just wait for the call back to The Show.
With the attrition rate of quarterbacks around the league, the market for veteran backups is always intense. Guys like Mark Brunell, Vinny Testaverde and Gus Frerotte played into their late 30s or 40s thanks to being dependable backups who could step in when the starter goes down. Many times, these backups become NFL Bedouins, travelling from team to team in search of an opportunity and to stay in the game of football.
On Wednesday, the Vikings signed journeyman QB Patrick Ramsey. After being drafted as the quarterback of the future for the Redskins in 2002, Ramsey has bounced around the league – the Vikings are the eighth of the 32 NFL teams that he has played with, including the fifth in the last two years alone. He was part of an extraordinarily pedestrian quarterback class in which Houston made David Carr its first franchise draft pick and, two picks later, the Lions used the third pick on Joey Harrington. Ramsey was taken with the 32nd pick by the Redskins.
In four years with the Redskins, he played in 33 games and made 24 starts, but, since then, it's been bouncing from team to team. He spent one season with the Jets and two with Denver, seeing limited action with both teams. He was on the roster with Tennessee and Detroit in 2009 and Jacksonville and Miami this season before being released by the Dolphins. He thought that perhaps his time in the NFL was just about over.
He said he hadn't given up hope on making a return into the NFL, but he continued to wait by the phone.
"I was back at home with my wife and kids in Louisiana," Ramsey said. "There was a point where I thought (forced retirement) was taking place. I was kind of looking around and where we expect to be, this opportunity came and here I am."
With Tarvaris Jackson placed on injured reserve Thursday and Brett Favre and unlikely to play outdoors at frigid TCF Bank Stadium, the plan is to give rookie Joe Webb his first career start. Ramsey is expected to be the No. 2 QB on the roster Monday night when the Vikings play Chicago.
In what Ramsey described as a "whirlwind" 24 hours since showing up at Winter Park, he said he is being bombarded with information and has no idea what role he be Sunday or where exactly he may or may not fit into the game plan.
"I don't know exactly what to expect," Ramsey said. "I'm just coming in here, grinding and trying to learn this language, be able to communicate it and see what happens."
Interim head coach Leslie Frazier said Ramsey has to be prepared to play in case something happens to Webb.
"I told him that's a real possibility before we signed him, I said, ‘You've got to put your mind around this, not certain what's going to happen with Brett. we've got to see what happens with Joe. For some reason if Joe goes down the first play, here we go, Patrick, you're the guy,'" Frazier said. "Before he made the commitment to play with us, I wanted him to know all the things that we're positive for him. He'll try to get as much as he can this week in preparation and be prepared if for some reason he has to go in there. And I think he'll do a good job. He's somewhat familiar with our system – he played in Denver when (Mike) Shanahan was there. The terminology is similar. I think he'll be fine. We'll definitely have to sweep the menu a little bit if he has to get in there, but he'll hold up fine."
Ramsey said that part of the offensive scheme translates from team to team, but that each West Coast Offense has its own individual quirks that make them unique.
"I've had some time in it," Ramsey said. "They're all a little bit different. It's just a matter of sorting things out.
The most difficult part of life for Ramsey the last two years is learning different systems. Dating back to 2005, Ramsey has played for eight different head coaches, offensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches in five years. Everyone has a different philosophy as to what works and what doesn't and said that, with each new team, much less five in the span of less than 18 months, can be mentally draining.
"It's tough," Ramsey said. "It makes it a little more tough every time you come in to learn something short notice like this. You're drawing conceptually from what you've done, but the verbiage is a little bit different. You have to try to scrap (what you've learned before), but at the same time, retain what you've learned and how you've run the plays. But, vocabulary-wise, it's never the same and you kind of have to scrap that."
If there was anything surprising about his coming to the Vikings, it was that there wasn't anyone on the team that vouched for him. Despite playing with 25 percent of the NFL teams in his career, he said there wasn't anybody on the Vikings roster that he has played with, joking, "Actually, I think this is the first team that I really don't know anyone."
It's been a blur of teams the last two years for him. While they have some basic components in common, each locker room and each attitude within the locker is different and unique unto itself.
"There are different guys everywhere, different themes everywhere – what a team is working on that year," he said. "But, we're football players and we've all done it. Having been around a while, I've been exposed to a lot of it."
Ramsey said he hasn't had to time to think long-term, since he is being force-fed the playbook and his mind is flooded with new terminology and game plans. But he said he hopes to use these final three weeks of the season to potentially get an in-road with hooking on with the Vikings after their 2010 season ends.
"It's an option," Ramsey said. "Without question, it's an opportunity to still play," Ramsey said. "I'm probably coming to the end of this thing and have an opportunity to come out here and be a part of it."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
QB Ramsey gets yet another opportunity
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