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SHULER TO GET 1ST START VS. SUPER BOWL CHAMPS

Never mind that it's probably the toughest game on the schedule, Heath Shuler is looking forward to his first start for the Washington Redskins against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Shuler, the Redskins' first-round draft pick (third overall) this year, will replace veteran John Friesz as the starter against the Cowboys, coach Norv Turner said Tuesday."I think if you're going to play, you play against the best - last year's world champions," said the rookie out of Tennessee. "This is where the fun starts. Sitting on the sideline - that's not fun," Shuler said.

Turner said he based the decision on a combination of Friesz's recent performances and his feeling that Shuler is ready to play.

"Even though we've been very productive in the passing game, and gotten a lot of positives out of it (with Friesz), we're still making the errors that are keeping us from getting done what we want to get done," Turner said. "And if we're going to have those errors, I'd just as soon be having those errors with Heath and making progress that way."

The Redskins are 1-3 after four games with Friesz as the starter. Friesz's strong showing in Game 2 at New Orleans caused Turner to postpone plans to start Shuler in the third game.

Shuler remained on the bench as Friesz threw for 476 yards and six touchdowns in two games, against the Saints and the New York Giants.

Friesz was 17-for-29 for 230 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons on Sunday, but threw three interceptions and fumbled once. Turner replaced him with Shuler for the final two possessions of the game.

Shuler was at a disadvantage to compete for the starting job because he missed 13 days of training camp getting a contract worked out. He signed an eight-year, $19.25 million deal, the biggest in team history, on Aug. 2.

Friesz, a five-year veteran who lost his job in San Diego to Stan Humphries, was signed by the Redskins before the April draft. Turner said the luxury of having Friesz kept pressure off Shuler while he learned the Redskins' offensive scheme.

"He's four weeks further along than when we had this discussion last time," Turner said. "That's been a plus. I think he's a lot more focused in and zeroed in on what we're doing."

Friesz said he realized he was playing a kind of caretaker role as quarterback while Shuler got up to speed. He acknowledged he was more disappointed in his play than with the team's decision to bench him.