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Guttentag From Hamburg

Finally getting a chance to do a proper blog on my conversation with Casey Bramlet yesterday. As we have talked about, he is tearing up NFL Europa, and hopes to get back in the NFL this season (he was with Cincy in 2004 but has been a nomad since).

Bramlet, 26, was in camp with the Skins last year, but the Redskins already had two veterans who were locks to be on the roster - Collins and Brunell - to go with blue-chip prospect Jason Campbell, so there was no real shot of making the team in any capacity. But this season there is a good chance that Collins could be let go if Brunell shows he is fully recovered from labrum surgery, and the chance to start grooming a young backup QB is there.

Also, Brunell is a great mentor to younger QBs - ask Campbell or Leftwich or Ramsey - and Brunell and Bramlet share the same agent. A season of guidance as an understudy for any of the Skins young passers - rookies Sam Hollenbach or Jordan Palmer - wouldn't be a bad thing for any of them.

So, should Casey's team in Hamburg make the World Bowl, they would play through this month. He is set to report to training camp in July, and while it is always a little gamble to be out of sight during the off season, Casey thought the chance to get some regular snaps in Europe as a starting QB was the best thing to do to prepare for a chance to win the third job in Washington.

Given the way he has played - he leads Europa is almost every passing category - it looks like a wise choice.

"I knew I had a chance to be successful if I came over here, and I just wanted to make the most of the opportunity," Brmalet said over the phone from Hamburg after his practice Thursday afternoon. "After I came over the last time (2005) I felt like I got better as a leader and as a quarterback, and there are so many things that go into this position that you just can't duplicate unless you are actually playing games - leading the huddle, knowing the playbook, the timing of the game - and that's what makes it so great having the chance to play over here."

Bramlet, a Wyoming kid who went to the U of Wyoming, said he got a good grasp of Al Saunders's complex rhythm offense during camp last year, and believes he had a jump start on that 700-page monster playbook already. "It's actually pretty similar to what we were running when I was in Cincinnati ," Casey said. "It's definitely a big playbook, but I was familiar with the concepts, so it wasn't a big change for me."

When the Redskins cut Bramlet last summer they let him know there was a good chance they would bring him back next off season, but, alas, there was no keeping the playbook for winter study. He had to turn it in like everyone else. Bramlet did spend time studying his notes and plays he jotted down during QB meetings while with the Redskins, though, to get ready for his next shot, but otherwise there is only so much a young QB in his position can do.

Yeah, you can throw routes to the neighborhood kids and workout in the gym, but there is no substitute for game action. For Casey that was especially important, because the last time he got any sort of steady repetition of snaps at the position in a pro setting prior to being with Hamburg was back in 2005 camp with the Bengals, when he was cut. (he was also with Hamburg Sea Devils in 2005, his other NFL Europe stint)

Last year as the 4th QB in Skins camp of a team learning a new offense, he was on a very limited rotation.

"There's definitely something to be gained by taking mental reps and watching from the sidelines, but I needed to play again," he said. "If I wanted to go really go forward with my career I had to get reps ."

Now he hopes to get back into the NFL. He sees a real chance to make the Redskins if he continues to perform as he has been in Europe during the preseason, and being the third QB is his goal.

"That's what I am going for," Bramlet said. "I know I am not competing for the starting job or the backup job, and I just want to find a way to make the team. I'm ready to come to Washington and try to take over there where I left off over here."

In the meantime, it is not all work for Casey in Europe. His fiancee visited recently and they took a short trip to Prague, driving from Hmaburg. "What a beautiful city," he said. "It was a amazing." Bramlet's younger brother is also a QB in Europa, so that's pretty cool to have a family member experiences the same thing this spring as well.

I have chatted with a lot of NFL Europe vets over the years, and a lot of them seem to have failed to embrace the cultural opportunities available there, but Casey said he is hitting museums and historic monuments every chance he gets. "I'm trying to see all that Germany has to offer," he said.

Of course, you all know I couldn't let this interview pass without talking a little soccer with someone living in Europe. Casey has seen Hamburg SV (the local Bundesliga team who share AOL Arena with Casey''s team), and was blown away by the experience of watching top flight European soccer live. "The crowd is just amazing; I've never seen anything like it," Casey said. "They cheer through the entire game and chant. It's a pretty unbelievable environment." (The AOL is pretty cool from what I remember of it from the World Cup last summer. Kinda standard fare, and not as cool as the Stads in Berlin or Leipzig - which dripped with history - or Munich, which is as state-of-the-art as it gets, but not bad nonetheless. (Stuttgart was the only real stinker from all of the venues as I remember it, but after covering like 22 games over there you tend to get confused looking back. Can you tell I am getting pretty nostalgic for my German Summer of '06? )

And believe it or not, the Germans have truly embraced American football as well. Casey said a crowd of over 30,000 was expected for Hamburg's game this weekend.

By Jason La Canfora  |  June 8, 2007; 3:06 PM ET
 
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