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For Brunell, There's No Looking Back

The Redskins' new starting quarterback, Mark Brunell, spoke briefly with reporters on Tuesday morning, saying that he looked forward to leading the offense on a national stage next Monday night at Dallas.

Asked if he felt he had been written off as a NFL starting quarterback heading into this season, Brunell replied: "That kind of criticism will continue until we turn things around here. I understand that. I'm not reading the newspapers--that's for sure.

"Right now, the priority is to win football games."

Brunell, a 14-year NFL veteran, admitted that he was bothered with some of the criticism directed toward him last season.

"But that was last year," he added. "Hopefully at some point we can stop talking about last year, but that only comes with winning and being successful on offense."

When head coach Joe Gibbs announced the quarterback change, he indicated that Brunell was somewhat limited physically last year due to a hamstring injury suffered in the Week 2 game at New York.

Gibbs also suggested that this year Brunell will be surrounded by better overall offensive talent.

"When Mark was playing last year, personnel-wise we weren't as good as we are right now," Gibbs said. "The second biggest thing there was for Mark, he had a real severe hamstring injury in the Giants game. He refused to come out. He played with it and I think that probably hurt his play."

Brunell started the first nine games of the 2004 season and completed 118-of-237 passes for 1,194 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Brunell was sacked 15 times as the Redskins' pass protection units struggled at times. His QB rating for the season was 63.9.

Brunell was replaced by Ramsey in Week 9. Ramsey finished out the year and completed 169-of-272 passes for 1,451 yards, 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was sacked 22 times and his QB rating was 74.4.

Gibbs has been frustrated with the team's turnovers. In the preseason, Ramsey threw four interceptions. In the Redskins' season-opening win against the Chicago Bears, Ramsey threw an interception and fumbled once.

The fumble occurred on a hard sack by Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, who appeared to hit Ramsey with a clothesline tackle around the neck. Ramsey left the game with a neck sprain. Although he was apparently healthy enough to return to the game, Gibbs stuck with Brunell.

Last year, Brunell may have had his best game of the season against Dallas. In a Week 3 Monday Night game at FedExField, Brunell was 25-of-43 for 325 yards and two touchdowns. He nearly led the Redskins to a dramatic, come-from-behind win.

Down 21-10 late in the fourth quarter, Brunell connected with Rod Gardner on a 15-yard touchdown. Then he connected with Taylor Jacobs on a 2-point conversion attempt to pull the Redskins to within 21-18.

The Redskins got the ball back with 21 seconds remaining. Brunell threw a 46-yard pass to Gardner to the Cowboys' 21-yard line, but the game clock expired as Gardner was unable to get out of bounds.

This year, the game will be in Dallas.

"It's a tough place to play," Brunell said on Tuesday. "I've been there a number of times. They're a very well-coached team--very talented and very physical. They don't really try to trick you. They're going to line up in 3-4 and try to beat you. On offense, they have a good passing attack with Drew now. It'll be a huge challenge for us."

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