Mates urge patience with Shuler

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Henry Ellard and John Gesek have seen firsthand the growing pains of a young quarterback.

Ellard saw Jim Everett arrive with the Los Angeles Rams 1986 and struggle before taking the team to the NFC title game in 1989.

Gesek arrived in Dallas in 1990, when Troy Aikman was a second-year quarterback still trying to find himself before becoming a two-time Super Bowl winner.

That helps explain why they're both stressing the Washington Redskins have to have patience with their young quarterback, Heath Shuler, after he played poorly for the third straight exhibition game in the team's 27-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Saturday night.

"It'll come, it's just something that takes some time, that's all," Ellard said. "It hasn't come yet, but it will."

Gesek said, "You look back at Troy in 1989 and 1990 and I don't think anybody thought he was going to be the quarterback he is today. I think it's a maturing process.

"[Shuler] needs to take it all in and build on it and not let games like this get to him. I know he puts pressure on himself. I know he'll learn from it."

Shuler, who's yet to put a touchdown on the board in 7 1/2 quarters of exhibition play while opposing teams have run two of his interceptions back for touchdowns, is trying to stay upbeat.

"You've just got to keep a positive attitude. You've got to keep your head up. Once you get down, you stay down," Shuler said.

Shuler said he has improved since his rookie season, even though he doesn't have the results to show for it.

"I feel I've come so far since last season, but, obviously you can't tell that because it hasn't been reflected in a game. What I've been in practice hasn't transferred over to the game yet," Shuler said.

As usual, coach Norv Turner defended Shuler. He made him the third pick in the 1994 NFL draft over Trent Dilfer -- who has thrown four touchdown passes for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the past two weeks -- and he maintains it's only a matter of time before Shuler finds his touch.

"It's hard to play this position in this league. It's very, very difficult," Turner said. "I know how to address [his problems]. You go back and go to work, work to get better, play better against Green Bay [in the final exhibition game] and get better in our opener.

"We can play better in some areas to give Heath some help."

Gesek said the team isn't getting discouraged, even though it had to settle for a field goal in the third period after having a first down on the Dolphins' one-half-yard line in the third period.

"Everybody's working hard," Shuler said. "You don't look around and see a bunch of guys holding their heads down and saying, 'Oh, man, I can't believe it,' " he said.

Meanwhile, the Redskins will have to start cutting their 79-man roster this week. They have to get down to 60 players by tomorrow and 53 by Sunday.

There won't be much drama in the cuts because they don't have many veterans on the bubble. Only 13 current players were on the squad when Turner was named head coach. Of those 13, the player who's in the most trouble is running back Reggie Brooks.

Even though he had 26 yards on five carries against the Dolphins, he's likely to have trouble making the roster. Turner, though, said he'll definitely survive tomorrow's cut.

The biggest decision for the Redskins this week will be picking their punter.

Matt Turk, who has the stronger leg, and Kent Sullivan, who is more consistent, have been locked in a duel for the job. Each kicked twice against the Dolphins and Turk had a 48.5 to 39.0 edge -- but one of Sullivan's punts was downed on the Miami 1.

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