Zeier has new grasp on Ravens role Backup QB preparing for when he's called

July 26, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens reserve quarterback Eric Zeier feels a little more at ease this season, first within himself and now with the team.

"I got four games under my belt last season and had some other experiences," said Zeier. "I just have to use those times, and develop from them."

Nearly a year ago, Zeier came into camp as a promising rookie from the University of Georgia, the Cleveland Browns' third-round draft pick who owned 18 Southeastern Conference and 67 Bulldogs passing records.

He quickly made a name for himself with the Browns in preseason, and when the team lost three straight games early during the regular season, Cleveland coach Bill Belichick pulled starter Vinny Testaverde for Zeier.

Zeier passed for 310 yards in his rookie debut, staging a 29-26 comeback win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the last three minutes. But the Browns lost his next three starts, and Zeier was unheard from for the last five games of the season.

"Eric came into a bad situation," said Testaverde recently. "Anybody who knew anything about quarterbacking knew that he wasn't ready to play. I'm not knocking Eric because I was thrown into a similar situation. I was once a promising rookie, too."

Zeier closed out the season by completing 82 of 161 passes for 864 yards and four touchdowns, but he had nine interceptions and was sacked 15 times.

That was only part of the learning experience. Zeier had started his second game only one day before owner Art Modell said he was moving the Browns here.

"There were some difficult times, a lot of things to learn," said Zeier, 6 feet, 200 pounds. "This time around I'm a little more relaxed, and just focusing on what I have to do to win some football games if called upon."

There is no quarterback controversy. Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda named Testaverde his starter several months ago.

Zeier has no problem with that situation. He understands his role and Marchibroda's easygoing style compared with that of his predecessor, Belichick, who was extremely intense.

"Vinny is No. 1," said Zeier. "My goal is to continue to work hard to be No. 1. I've played against the Green Bays and the Pittsburghs. I know what it takes. . . When my time comes, I just want to be ready."

Pub Date: 7/26/96

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