For Patrick Ramsey, this is not just another offseason. With the start of voluntary workouts at Redskins Park on March 21, the fourth-year quarterback is preparing for perhaps his most important football season to date.
Ramsey no longer views himself as a fresh-faced rookie or a developing pro. And as he continues to learn the intricacies of Joe Gibbs' offense and adjust to new quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave, he also recognizes that the time is now to establish himself as an every-game starter and a playoff-caliber quarterback in the NFL.
Ramsey took a step in that direction in the last seven games of last season. He started all seven after relieving Mark Brunell mid-season, guiding the Redskins to three wins. He completed 65 percent of his passes--142-of-217 for 1,313 yards and eight touchdown passes--in those seven starts.
"My mindset right now is to just continue to improve," Ramsey said. "Last year, there was improvement during the course of the season, but I want to begin that process now. That'll put me at an accelerated level when I start the season.
"Obviously, you're going to learn something in every game you play. I want to be the guy who leads us to great things and turns this thing around. I want to be a part of the success and I want to be out there on the field when it happens."
At this time last year, Ramsey was still recovering from foot surgery that repaired a bothersome bone bruise that cut short his 2003 campaign. He didn't start working out with the offense until the team's third mini-camp in early June.
Ramsey expects that the weight training and getting the extra work with receivers this offseason will help him prepare better for training camp.
"At this point last year, I was barely walking," he said. "I had just gotten out of the boot [protecting his foot] and I was having trouble even doing simple things as far as playing quarterback is concerned. So I was set back last year. This year, I'm obviously further along because I'm not injured. I'm able to condition and go out there and weight train. I'll be in optimal shape when I start."
Last preseason, Ramsey struggled in two starts and Brunell landed the starting job coming out of preseason.
When Brunell suffered a hamstring injury in Week 2 against the New York Giants, Ramsey saw his first action of the regular season and struggled, throwing three second-half interceptions. It was clear that he had not fully adjusted to Gibbs' offense and was still relying on his instincts from former head coach Steve Spurrier's pass-oriented offense.
Ramsey replaced Brunell in Week 9 and started the remainder of the season. Overall, Ramsey completed 169-of-272 passes for 1,451 yards, 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His QB rating was 74.8.
Ramsey's marked improvement in the last seven games has elevated his confidence level.
Asked what he specifically learned in those last seven games, Ramsey replued: "Running this offense in a game-time situation. It was important for me to go in there and see that and how the offense works and flows around me. You can see why Coach Gibbs calls certain things in certain situations, and that knowledge helps you as you're leading the team [downfield]. Towards the end of the season, I got more and more comfortable. Every play, I wasn't thinking as much. I was just playing the game and reacting and letting my instincts take over."
Listen to Ramsey talk and it's clear he has moved beyond the adjustment period from Spurrier's offense to Gibbs' offense.
"There's no adjusting, it's just moving forward now," he said.
In comparing the two offenses, Ramsey said the primary difference is that in Gibbs' offense, the focus is on a more balanced offensive attack. The offense picks it spots in the downfield passing game.
"You pick your time [to throw downfield]," he said. "And at the same time, you play to your strengths. We've added some receivers this year who will help us get the ball downfield. I'm real excited about them. Just watching David Patten and Santana Moss, I can see their burst in speed and I can see their ability."
Entering his fourth season as a Redskin, Ramsey is also qualified to comment on the Redskins' offseason, which has been noticeably quieter in terms of new players. The team's high-profile transaction was the trade of wide receiver Laveranues Coles to the New York Jets for Moss.
The Redskins also brought in offensive lineman Casey Rabach, Patten and defensive back Pierson Prioleau in free agency.
Said Ramsey: "We don't seem to have as many needs this year. Coach Gibbs, in his first year, put things in place and he's just trying to add to that now and mold the team the way he wants us to play and the style he wants us to play. So hopefully, the quiet side of the offseason will be beneficial because we'll have continuity."