Ramsey gets seven-game audition to run Gibbs' offense

ASHBURN, Va. - The fans' constant chants for Patrick Ramsey were a source of locker room humor among the Washington Redskins over the last few weeks, including one running gag involving Ramsey's wife.

``We've been teasing him,'' tackle Jon Jansen said. ``We kept telling him that Ginny was standing there with a sign: 'Put Patrick In.' ``

The truth is Ramsey was more embarrassed than encouraged by the fuss. When he was finally chosen the starting quarterback this week, he offered a tactful admonition to those who orchestrated the calls of ``Ram-sey!'' when they weren't booing Mark Brunell.

``I think we have great fans and they desire for us to be successful,'' Ramsey said. ``I think if they realized how much of a detriment it is to our team, I don't think they would do it, if they really understood the morale that it kind of set for our offense. I think Mark handled it admirably. I'm going to try to battle through everything, but subconsciously, I think it would affect me.''

So goes Washington's velvet quarterback revolution. The rest of the football world sees a coach making a long overdue move to try to revive an awful offense, while the principals involved see it as an awkward exchange of roles between nice-guy hunting buddies.

``If they didn't like each other, it would be easier for them,'' Jansen said. ``But when there's a professional relationship and a personal relationship, it's hard for both of them.''

Touchy-feely stories aside, coach Joe Gibbs' switch has serious implications. The Redskins are 3-6 with the toughest part of their schedule to come. It's time to start thinking about next year, and these last seven games are probably Ramsey's last chance to earn Gibbs' trust.

``I really feel like it's more of an audition to help lead this football team, more so than anything for my future,'' Ramsey said.

Ramsey has had a tough year. He was undermined by Gibbs' decision to trade for Brunell and had his agent ask for a trade. The request was rescinded when Gibbs promised Ramsey a fair shot at the starting job at training camp, but Ramsey failed to take advantage with poor performances in the exhibition games. He had no one to blame but himself.

``I didn't play well enough in the preseason to warrant a start _ or that much playing time early,'' Ramsey said. ``I was very disappointed with the way I played in the preseason. It was tough, but at the same time I knew I deserved not to be in the game.''

Ramsey's struggles stemmed in part from his 16 starts in two seasons under coach Steve Spurrier, who demanded from his quarterback a philosophy and mechanics unique in the NFL. The change to Gibbs' conservative style was as radical as could be, forcing Ramsey to throttle the urge to ``make every single throw 20 yards.''

``Applying it on the field was more difficult for me because there were some adjustments, things I was really focusing on, and I wasn't playing the game,'' Ramsey said. ``I was focusing on a lot of mental things and thinking at the line of scrimmage, whereas I don't think you can do that and play the game successfully.''

Ramsey has been erratic in two relief appearances this season, but both times he was trying to overcome huge deficits without the benefit of a week of practice with the first team. This Sunday at Philadelphia, he gets a shot with the score tied 0-0, albeit for a team that hasn't scored more than 18 points in a game all season.

``I wouldn't say it was on my shoulders,'' Ramsey said. ``I do look forward to trying to complete balls and moving the ball, but it's not going to be a 'Plug Patrick in' and the passing game's going to work.''

If Ramsey doesn't succeed, Gibbs will be backed into a corner in the offseason with the most important position on the team. It's hard to imagine Brunell, 34, returning, but truncating his huge contract would cause a major drain on the salary cap. If the Redskins cut Brunell and then have to spend big bucks for a new quarterback _ say, if San Diego's Drew Brees is available _ the money well will quickly run dry.

At least Ramsey won't be under the pressure of a quick hook. Gibbs showed remarkable patience with Brunell, and it would be a surprise if Ramsey is not allowed to finish the season.

``Hopefully there won't be reason for patience,'' Ramsey said. ``Hopefully I can go in there and play well.''