Around the NFL, 32 starting quarterbacks are feeling optimistic right about now. With training camps open coast to coast, hope is springing eternal. No one is sounding more upbeat about 2006 than Mark Brunell.
The 14th training camp of Brunell's NFL career opened Monday afternoon at Redskins Park. Seldom have expectations been higher.
"Absolutely, there's no question about it. And it should be that way," Brunell said after leading his team through workouts in 95 degree heat. "The expectations are high outside this building, but they are probably higher inside the building with the team and with our staff."
That's how it goes for a team that a year ago went 10-6, returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and gave eventual NFC East champ a stiff fight before going down in the second round of the postseason.
Brunell says key talent upgrades has his team truly believing there will be more progress in 2006.
Rather boldly, he put it this way: "We expect good things and anything short of going all the way would honestly be a disappointment. That's the mindset of every team right now at training camp.
"But as far as this group of guys, we need to be better than that last year. I expect us to be better than last year; how much better remains to be seen."
The veteran quarterback, now in his third season with the Redskins, played in all 16 regular-season games in 2005. That's something he hadn't done since 2000 at Jacksonville.
Brunell expected to play in all 16 contests in 2006 and bristled when asked about his durability at this point in his lengthy NFL career. He suffered an off-season finger injury but proclaimed himself fully healthy from that minor setback.
In terms of the 2005 regular season, Brunell completed 262 of 454 passes for 3,050 yards. He passed for 23 TDs, with 10 interceptions, and a QB rating of 85.9.
Of Jason Campbell, who one day is expected to be the leader of the Redskins' offense, Brunell said: "He made a lot of strides this offseason and worked really hard. Jason has a great attitude and he had a very good spring."
For all of that, Brunell on Monday sounded like a veteran quarterback who is energized for his 14th year in the league and thinking about ways to help his team pin a loss on Minnesota come Sept. 11 at FedExField.
What has him pumped up, quite naturally, is his new group of receivers, with Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle having joined Santana Moss, David Patten, James Thrash and others.
Said Brunell: "I'm thrilled. We have a lot of talent at that position. The hard part is, there are so many good athletes, so many good receivers. To get all of them the ball is going to be difficult.
"We're going do our best to get them all involved and allow them all to contribute. That's what it's going to take to make us a very good offense. There are too many guys to throw to, so that's where I feel the most pressure. I have to be able to keep them happy, but that's my job description."