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In Jacksonville, A Homecoming For Brunell

Mark Brunell carries plenty of memories of Jacksonville--it's where he resided for nine years, it's where his NFL career took off, and it's where his Brunell Family Foundation was established.

Brunell played nine productive seasons in Jacksonville, and he led the Jaguars to the AFC Championship game twice. He holds 35 franchise records for the Jaguars.

It's only a preseason game, but this Thursday, Brunell will play against his former team for the first time. He has not been back to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium (formerly Alltel Stadium) since the 2003 season.

"I never have walked into that stadium as an opposing player," he said. "This will be the first. I might go in the wrong door."

Asked what kind of greeting he expects from Jaguars fans, Brunell replied: "It'll probably be a warm welcome, but you never know--I'm still the opponent, regardless of the time I spent there. But we'll see. I'm looking forward to it."

Brunell is expected to see significant action as competes to become Jason Campbell's primary backup. He is competing with Todd Collins, who has looked sharp in three games in preseason but hasn't thrown a regular-season pass since 2004.

If Campbell proves to be fully healthy in practice this week, then he'll start the game and be followed by Brunell. If Campbell cannot play, then Brunell will draw the start.

In three preseason games so far, Brunell has completed 9-of-23 passes for 102 yards, with one interception.

He threw only two passes in Saturday's storm-shortened preseason game against Baltimore, a 13-7 win for the Redskins.

"I haven't had a lot of time this preseason, so every quarterback will tell you the more opportunities that they can get in there, in real game-type situations, the better off they are," Brunell said.

Brunell has had an up-and-down tenure with the Redskins. He struggled through injuries in 2004 and 2006, while turning in a memorable 2005 campaign in which he led the Redskins to the postseason.

Brunell spends little time in Jacksonville now--he still has a house there, but he lives year-round in Great Falls, Va.--but he remains a part of the community.

His foundation has contributed more than $700,000 to Jacksonville's Wolfson Children's Hospital to help enrich the lives of children who face chronic or life-threatening illnesses.

Brunell said he feels fortunate to have played in Jacksonville for an extended period of his NFL career.

"Not a lot of guys get to do that," he said. "To be there in one spot, for nine years--it was a special time. We had some good years, good friendships, and some real good memories down there."

Brunell has said that when he retires from pro football, he and his family will return to live in Jacksonville.

Now in his fourth year with the Redskins, Brunell has accepted a backup role to Campbell. He still loves the game and wants to play as long as possible. He says he is fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery.

With Collins impressing this preseason and draft pick Jordan Palmer a developmental prospect, there has been some speculation that Brunell could find himself on another team in the coming weeks.

He has heard the rumors, particularly the newspaper and Internet reports that the Atlanta Falcons could be a possible destination.

"Bobby Petrino--he's [the head coach] in Atlanta now--I was with him in Jacksonville where he was my quarterbacks coach," Brunell said. "I was with [Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks coach] Bill Musgrave here and in Jacksonville.

"So I'm familiar with their offense. Perhaps a few people put that together.

"But I haven't had any phone calls, nor has my agent. So I don't know if there's anything concrete about that whole situation. I think some crazy media guy made it up and everyone ran with it."

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