Ravens put ball, fate in Testaverde's hands Starting status clear, but veteran's ability to win remains cloudy

August 31, 1996|By Kevin Langbaum | Kevin Langbaum,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

One thing is certain about the Cleveland Browns last season: They were mired in controversy. In addition to the announced move to Baltimore, Vinny Testaverde was benched in favor of Eric Zeier, sparking questions at quarterback.

One thing is certain about the Baltimore Ravens this season: There is no more quarterback controversy.

"Vinny's the guy," quarterbacks coach Don Strock said. "It's not going to take one bad play or one bad game. He's the guy. He knows that so he's not looking over his shoulder."

Testaverde was the top pick in the 1987 NFL draft after winning the Heisman Trophy in his senior year at Miami, Fla. But, as he enters his 10th season, he has never achieved the stardom that was predicted for him.

"He's had some tough things happen to him," Strock said, referring to last year's benching and the frequent coaching changes in his career.

Testaverde was solid in four preseason starts this year but was hampered by turnovers, which have been his Achilles' heel.

"We're just trying to eliminate all the mistakes," Strock said. "I'm very high on him. He's always had great ability. We're just trying to get the best out of that right now."

Testaverde said: "I feel like I've made big strides as a quarterback. There are some mistakes I need to correct, but things seem to have gone well."

Zeier returns to his role as a backup, in which he has flourished this preseason. A third-round draft pick out of Georgia in 1995, Zeier threw two touchdown passes without an interception in four games.

"If need be, if something happened, if he had to step in for an injury or something, he would do a great job for us," Strock said of Zeier.

Coach Ted Marchibroda is satisfied with his decision to stick with Testaverde.

"We feel like we're in pretty good shape at that position," he said. "I think Vinny's performed well. Eric has done the job as the backup guy."

Rookie free agent Scott Otis, out of Glenville State in West Virginia, is the third quarterback. He's tall (6 feet 5) and has good arm strength but doesn't figure to see much playing time.

Seventh-round pick Jon Stark will miss at least six weeks because of shoulder surgery and probably won't make an impact this year. Strock said both young quarterbacks may have a future with the club.

Scouting report

Strengths: Vinny Testaverde. When Testaverde is on, he is one of the top quarterbacks in the league.

Weaknesses: Vinny Testaverde. He is inconsistent and prone to throwing interceptions, especially inside the 20-yard line.

Key to success: Which Testaverde will show up? He must play consistently and keep the turnovers to a minimum.

Pub Date: 8/31/96

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