Mark Brunell admits he's been "holding back" in assuming a leadership role on the team. For six months, Brunell has been competing with Patrick Ramsey for the starting quarterback job--and he didn't want to take anything for granted or rub anyone the wrong way.
All of that changed when Joe Gibbs named Brunell the opening day starter earlier this week.
"The point we're at now, there'll be more opportunities and more of a chance to be outspoken," Brunell said. "There'll be more of a chance to be the leader that the starting quarterback is supposed to be."
Brunell will start this Friday night's preseason finale against Atlanta at FedExField and then begin preparations for the regular season opener versus Tampa Bay. This preseason, he has performed steadily, starting the Denver and Miami games. Overall, Brunell is 22-of-40 for 244 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His QB rating is 71.3.
Brunell will now get the bulk of reps in practices as he continues to develop a rapport with the Redskins' receivers.
"When you have a rotation with quarterbacks and receivers, it's tough to get the work that you want with the first team," Brunell said. "Now we're at that point and I'm able to throw to Rod [Gardner] and Laveranues [Coles] and the rest of the guys. So that's good moving forward."
As for the preseason finale, a game in which starters typically play only a couple of series, Brunell hopes to get significant playing time.
"There are two trains of thought," Brunell said. "You get the starters out of there early so they can stay healthy. But at the same time where we're at right now, we haven't been together a whole lot. The more time we have as a unit, the better. But I don't make that decision. It's up to Coach Gibbs."
Brunell, 6-1 and 217-pounds, joined the Redskins last offseason after playing nine years in Jacksonville. He has passed for 144 touchdowns, more than 25,000 yards and has a career quarterback rating of 85.2.
He is 63-51 as a starter in the regular season and 4-4 in the postseason.
Last year, Brunell suffered an elbow injury in Week 3 and was replaced by rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich the remainder of the season.
Now, Brunell says he is as healthy as he's ever been.
"Last year, I came into preseason a little beat up," he said. "I didn't play that much last year and that afforded me the opportunity to get healthy. So at this point I feel great."
Brunell's best preseason performance so far was during the 17-0 shutout of Miami on Aug. 21. He was 7-of-9 for 79 yards in the game, although he mostly handed off to running backs. (The Redskins ran the ball 52 times in the game.)
Last week, in the 28-3 loss to the St. Louis Rams, Brunell played the third quarter and was 5-of-8 for 28 yards.
For Brunell, preseason games are mostly about developing a bond with teammates and learning what it takes to win games with the personnel on hand.
"Through good and bad games, there are always opportunities to learn," he said. "A big thing for us was, we had a great game against Miami and then last week we turned around and struggled against St. Louis. That's a great learning lesson right there.
"We would have loved to gone out and done well against the Rams, but maybe we needed to take a step back and realize it's not going to be like Miami every night. So it comes down to this: How can you respond? How can you get things going? It's just the way preseason goes.