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Quarterback Question Lingers For Preseason Finale


This had all the earmarks of Abbott and Costello's 'Who's on First?' routine.

Just plug in a quarterback named Somebody.

Because we know Somebody will line up as the starting quarterback on Thursday night in the preseason finale against the Arizona Cardinals. Somebody will replace Somebody and get a bunch of snaps. Most likely followed by Somebody.

The only Somebody who isn't Anybody in this equation is Donovan McNabb, who will sit out with a sprained ankle.

As to which of the remaining fellows named Somebody – also known as Rex Grossman, John Beck and Richard Bartel – will play and when? Ah, tune in for the 10 p.m. ET kickoff.

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, following Tuesday's practice, indicated Grossman, the principal backup, would "probably" start.

Grossman, of course, had been saying he did not expect to play.

So this followed neatly on head coach Mike Shanahan's offering Monday of a "keep 'em guessing" policy.

Game on. We're guessing.

"Rex is taking reps right now and we'll see how it goes," Kyle Shanahan said. "We expect him probably to start but we haven't finalized it yet. But we don't expect him to play long if he does."

You'd have received more clarity from a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Rex the Wonder Dog or by reading Oedipus Rex than from Grossman, who smiled as he parried questions about the day's mystery.

"I enjoy playing. If they ask me to play, I'll play," he said. "I don't really know anything. Don't ask me. I just show up. If they put me in, I'll play."

From not playing to starting? Next batter.

"Rex initially wasn't really sure. We weren't really sure. We go back and forth, depending on people's health and there's a lot of evaluation and time that goes into it," Mike Shanahan said at his news conference. "What's the best thing for the team? What's the best thing for the individual? We'll wait and see there as well."

Grossman ought to be ready … for the Dallas Cowboys, anyway. Asked if he'd been studying any tape of the Cardinals, he replied: "I haven't. I've been watching a lot of Dallas."

So we move on. To the other Somebodies.

Beck, acquired in an Aug. 2 trade with the Baltimore Ravens, started four games and played in five for the Miami Dolphins as a second-round draft pick in 2007. Both Shanahans followed his career at Brigham Young University and liked him as a prospect coming out.

Bartel was the Redskins' No. 3 quarterback for the final six games last year but never played. He'd previously been on practice squads in Dallas, Cleveland and Jacksonville, with one game (but no snaps) on the Browns' active roster in '08.

The Redskins seem not to have decided whether to keep a third quarterback when rosters must be cut to 53 players on Saturday.

McNabb's health may factor into that and Grossman can't possibly play long enough against the Cardinals to lose his grip on his job as the backup. So Beck and Bartel, whether they start or relieve against the Cardinals, could be playing for a role that doesn't exist.

Mike Shanahan also would not specifically address whether McNabb would be ready to practice next week in preparation for the opener.

In the interest of not giving the Cowboys any extra information and because of the vagaries of injuries, he continued to put McNabb in a day-to-day category.

"How do you know? You're hoping that a guy can go but you don't know if there's going to be a setback or not," Shanahan said. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed, I'm hoping, he's doing everything he can in rehab to get himself ready. But when he's ready to go, I'll let you guys know."

Which brings us back to the Arizona game.

Somebody will start at quarterback. Somebody may do enough to influence the deciders and earn the third spot, if there is one.

Nobody could be any clearer about it.

Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at and follow him on

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