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Humphries Wondering if His Time Has Passed

WASHINGTON POST

Stan Humphries didn’t wait around for answers. He had showered and departed the locker room at RFK Stadium almost before some of the Washington Redskins had left the field after Friday’s 24-21 overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns, and he didn’t speak to Coach Joe Gibbs or any of the dozen reporters gathered near his locker.

After Gibbs gave his players the weekend off, Humphries spent Saturday morning playing golf and the afternoon with his family. He was not in a talking mood.

“I have no idea what’s going on,” he said. “I’d rather not say anything. I don’t know what to say. It’s going to be one of those wait-and-see deals.”

Humphries may not know what’s going on, but after watching Cary Conklin relieve starting quarterback Mark Rypien and finish against the Browns, he must not like what he sees.

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This was supposed to be the first summer he got a full-bore chance to win the job from Rypien, the summer he would have a chance to show all that potential that has excited the Redskins for a couple of years now.

It has become something else. Instead of challenging Rypien, Humphries appears to be in danger of becoming the odd man out as Gibbs wrestles with his quarterback depth chart the next two weeks. Gibbs won’t say what that depth chart looks like, but he doesn’t waste preseason minutes. When Conklin played Friday, it was an indication of how much his stock has risen and that he’ll be on the team when the Redskins and Detroit Lions open the regular season Sept. 1.

It was also an indication that Humphries could be in trouble or at least about to start the season as the No. 3 quarterback. Until this weekend, conventional wisdom was that Conklin and veteran Jeff Rutledge were fighting for the No. 3 spot. Now, it seems clear that Rutledge and Humphries are fighting for the final job.

Gibbs is wording his public statements carefully, but inside Redskin Park it’s no secret that he considers Rypien his starter and that he has high regard for Conklin. It’s also clear that he likes Rutledge and likes having a veteran backup quarterback on his roster.

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But would he keep Rutledge over Humphries? He appears to be leaning that way, but there will be more than a little debate before that decision is final. At the same time, he might argue that Rypien is his starter, and that if he gets hurt, keeping Conklin and Rutledge would give him a young, rising player and a veteran to take over.

Such a possibility would have been inconceivable a year ago. That was before Humphries had a chance to play, before he threw nine interceptions in a four-game stretch and before Gibbs challenged his work habits and almost dared him to get in shape. Gibbs said that Humphries has responded to his challenge by getting in shape and having a good camp.

“I think I’ve had my best camp since I’ve been here,” Humphries said. “A bunch of people will tell you that.”

Gibbs agreed: “I wouldn’t say this has anything to do with Stan doing something wrong. Cary has made the biggest leap of all, and I’m just trying to line up the quarterbacks in the way I think it would be best for our team. I’ve got it in my mind like I’d like to go, but I could change. One thing that bothers me is that those guys aren’t going to have a chance to settle it on the field. That’s the way it’s supposed to be done.”

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Some of the people inside the organization who know Gibbs best have no idea what he’ll do. They know he wants Rutledge around, that he loves Conklin’s potential and that Humphries has often angered him. Rutledge would be the most logical odd man out.

With one preseason game remaining--Saturday in Columbia, S.C., against the New York Jets -- Rypien has thrown 37 passes, Conklin 27, Humphries 17 and Rutledge eight. Conklin has completed 13 for 165 yards and a touchdown. Humphries has completed seven for 75 yards.


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