FOXBORO, Mass. -- When Heath Shuler was trying to decide whether to pass up his senior year at Tennessee last January, he asked the quarterbacks who went 1-2 in the 1993 draft -- Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer -- for advice.
Bledsoe left Washington State a year early and Mirer played his senior year at Notre Dame, and they both said they were happy with their decisions.
"Both of them said the main thing is you make your decision," Shuler said. "Whatever you think is best will be right."
Shuler decided to pass up his senior year and it has worked out well so far. He was the third player picked in the college draft by the Washington Redskins and got a record $19.25 million contract.
Now he's trying to follow in the footsteps of Bledsoe and Mirer and win the starting job for the season opener.
He'll be facing Bledsoe and the New England Patriots when he gets his first chance to play with the starters tonight. He'll work the second and third quarter after John Friesz plays the first quarter.
When Bledsoe got the starting job a year ago, coach Bill Parcells said he wasn't ready, but that he didn't have an alternative. Washington coach Norv Turner has an alternative in Friesz and he seems torn. He said yesterday he won't make a final decision until the week before the Sept. 4 opener against the Seattle Seahawks.
"We're going to play the guy who gives us the best chance to win the Seattle game," Turner said.
Obviously, Shuler is the team's quarterback of the future, but Turner said, "I'm not concerned about longevity or development."
That means Shuler has to convince Turner he has overcome the effects of the 13-day holdout and is ready to win a game in the opener.
It appears to be a pressure situation for Shuler, but he said he won't be nervous tonight.
"I'm more calm the day of a game," Shuler said. "Sometimes, I get more nervous in practice than I do in a game."
Casillas is free agent
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ruled yesterday that Tony Casillas is a free agent who can sign with any team.
The Kansas City Chiefs had complained that the Dallas Cowboys were tampering with their former defensive lineman when Casillas said he had an illness and failed to report to the Chiefs camp. As soon as the Chiefs accepted the repayment of his $1.2 million signing bonus and relinquished their rights to him, Casillas said he had recovered and could play.
Tagliabue said, "I am now satisfied Tony's medical concerns were genuine."
Casillas said he suffered from borderline hypertension and was under the care of an internist and a cardiologist. Casillas' agent, Tom Condon, said he'll now start negotiating with NFL teams that expressed an interest in him during the last week. The Cowboys are presumably one of those teams.
Around the league
Shawn Moore, the Virginia quarterback drafted by the Denver Broncos on the 11th round in 1991, was released yesterday. The Broncos are going with Hugh Millen as the third-string quarterback behind John Elway and Tommy Maddox. Moore said he wasn't surprised because he was due to make around $270,000 and Millen signed for the $162,000 minimum. . . . Defensive lineman Dan Stubbs, a second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 1988 who has been with the Cincinnati Bengals since 1991, was waived. He doesn't fit in the defense designed by the team's new defensive coordinator, Larry Peccatiello, who was a longtime Redskins assistant. . . . Philadelphia Eagles running back Charlie Garner, the team's second-round draft pick, will be out of action indefinitely with a stress fracture of the first rib. The Eagles had hoped that the rookie from Tennessee would be their primary ball carrier.