Brunell excited to play in return to Jacksonville

ASHBURN, Va. -- Mark Brunell was the face of the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise for nine years, leading the team to four playoff berths while earning three trips to the Pro Bowl. Many of his team passing records will be safe for years and years to come.

On Thursday, when he returns to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium for the first time as a visiting player, Brunell will try to avoid dropping to No. 3 on the Washington Redskins depth chart.

"I'd like to have all four quarters if I could," Brunell said. "But I don't think that's happening."

Jockeying for roster position in a preseason game isn't how Brunell would have envisioned his return, but, then again, he never thought he'd leave the Jaguars in the first place. He still has a house in Jacksonville, visits a few times each year and would like to make it his full-time home again once he's retired.

But his tenure with the Jaguars ended after he was deposed by youngster Byron Leftwich during the 2003 season. The disappointment over the departure has since faded -- and Brunell got to beat his old team last year in a 36-30 overtime Redskins victory at home -- yet this game will be special nonetheless.

"I might go in the wrong door. It'll be a little different standing on the other sideline," Brunell said. "To be there in one spot to start for nine years, it was a special team. We had some real good years and some special memories down there."

This year, Brunell finds himself battling Todd Collins for Washington's No. 2 job behind Jason Campbell, a competition that was a training camp surprise and one in which Collins appears to have the lead. Not only have Collins' numbers been better, but Brunell got shortchanged Saturday night when he got to play only one series against Baltimore before severe lightning halted the game in the third quarter.

"I haven't got a lot of time this preseason," said Brunell, who is 9-for-23 for 102 yards over three games. "Every quarterback will tell you, the most chances they get in real-game situations, the better off they are."

Brunell is too much of a nice guy -- and too savvy of a veteran -- to complain publicly about his plight, but the case could be made that he has a right to. Coach Joe Gibbs personally recruited Brunell to come to Washington in 2004, and the quarterback's career meter has since wavered multiple times from washed up to resurrected and back.

Brunell led the Redskins to the playoffs in 2005 but was benched in 2004 and 2006, in part because he was asked to run new offenses that weren't yet ready for the big time. He was throwing in pain during his final start last year and required shoulder surgery in the offseason. He has also been willing to restructure his contract whenever the team needed salary cap relief.

But Brunell's devotion to the franchise hasn't earned him any entitlements this year. Gibbs didn't let Brunell or Collins know that they were competing until camp was well under way, and last week Gibbs announced the quarterback rotation for the final two games to reporters before informing either player.

**Mark Brunell**, QB
Washington Redskins
2006 Statistics
Rating: 86.5

Comp pct.: 62.3

Yards: 1,789

TD/INT: 8/4

"It's been different," Brunell said. "But that's just the situation that I'm in. ... Things aren't given to you at this level. Whether you're competing for second, third, fourth, whatever, you've got to earn the right to be in that position. Just because of something you did in the previous 13 years, Pro Bowls or numbers, that doesn't do anything for you, and I don't think it should."

Notes: RB Clinton Portis, bothered by tendinitis in his right knee, had his first full practice Tuesday in four weeks. "I've got to get my legs back under me," Portis said. "I slipped and fell a couple times running the ball, but outside of that I felt good." Portis said he might even play against the Jaguars, although he'd rather not. "Hopefully I showed enough in practice where I ain't got to play on Thursday." ... Campbell, who missed last week's game with a bruised knee, practiced and said he remains on track to start Thursday. "He looks fine to me," Gibbs said. ... LT Chris Samuels (knee) and LB Marcus Washington (elbow) took part in individual drills, but neither will play Thursday. ... Gibbs said LG Pete Kendall, acquired in a trade with the New York Jets last week, will start Thursday.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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