Tuesday, November 16, 2004 at 12:00am

It was an ill-advised trade at best, a total disaster at worst.

And, 10 weeks into the NFL season, it is still unknown as to what Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs saw that made him believe he could build the team's offense around quarterback Mark Brunell.

But Gibbs made the move last March, dealing a third-round pick and then paying Brunell $43 million over seven years when he had the young and talented Patrick Ramsey on the roster. It is often forgotten that the Redskins were 3-1 at the start of last year with Ramsey at quarterback, and one of the wins was over the Patriots.

However, the absence of a running game made it open season on Ramsey, and it was only a matter of time until he got hurt. But Gibbs likes veterans, so he cast his lost with Brunell. Now, the coach will finally see what he has in Ramsey, after steadfastly sticking by Brunell despite his passing for less than 100 yards in three of the previous four games before Sunday's loss to Cincinnati at home.

Brunell was benched against the Bengals after completing one of eight passes for six yards. Ramsey then was 18-for-37 for 210 yards and a touchdown, and he is expected to start this week against Philadelphia.

"We need to see if we can get a lift," Gibbs said. "We'll sit down and think our way through it, but in all likelihood it's probably good to give Patrick a chance here to see what we can do."

Asked to judge his own performance, Ramsey said, "I don't think that I want to start rating myself. I started rusty, that was apparent, and I tried my best. I just try to go out there and play well, whatever I do."

Traffic to the North

The Minnesota Vikings are in another freefall, even though coach Mike Tice denies it, and after Sunday's loss to the Green Bay Packers, they will have to find a way to show they have the character to win tough games down the stretch.

Last season, the Vikings started 6-0, but finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs as the Packers caught them. Only recently, Minnesota was 5-1 and the Packers 1-4, but Green Bay's last-second victory leaves both teams with 5-4 records in the hotly contested NFC North.

"We never really thought we were that far off to begin with, even though our record obviously indicated that we were," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "We still have a lot of football left. To be able to win four games in a row after losing four, it speaks volumes of the men in the locker room and how they handle adversity. It's all about guys staying in the boat, not jumping ship, not pointing fingers, being accountable, being honest about their performance and fixing some things. Everybody, myself included, is accountable.

"Our coaches have done a tremendous job of pulling this thing together, to be able to win four in a row. But we still have a long way to go."

Road trip

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer took a road trip last week with wide receiver Chad Johnson.

The duo drove to Indianapolis so they could see the Vikings and Packers attack each other in Monday Night Football. They saw Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Marvin Harrison set a new record for togetherness. The pair had 666 completions after that game, three more than Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and Andre Reed.

"They're the best. They're who we want to be like," Palmer said of Manning and Harrison. "Chad and I want to get great in a hurry. We're trying to learn. He's going to be here a long time. I'm going to be here a long time."

They made the 220-mile roundtrip in Palmer's truck, and were in the stands after having bought tickets in advance.

Beasley calls players out

After San Francisco 49ers fullback Fred Beasley called out his teammates recently, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd wouldn't believe the comments were directed at him. It's always tough to look in the mirror in the morning.

Beasley said some of the young players had issues. Later, Beasley claimed he wasn't singling out individuals.

Said Beasley, "I wasn't trying to point anyone out. Everyone got on Brandon Lloyd because of what I said. I was just talking about young guys in general because most of the starters on this team are young guys. I was just talking about honor and respect. Some guys come in and think the money or having a radio show earns you respect. You earn respect on the field, not just when you catch passes and touchdowns."

Lloyd is also one of the few players on the team who has a radio show.

Lloyd said he thinks all the receivers are "working hard and busting their butts." After Sunday's loss to Carolina, the 49ers are 1-8, tied with Miami for the worst record in the league.

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