Testaverde makes most of perks in enjoying day in Pro Bowl sun Between football, golf, QB having time of life

February 02, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde is starting to see the frustrations of nine previous seasons sink into the Hawaiian sands.

After an often tumultuous career, Testaverde will make his first Pro Bowl appearance tonight for the American Football Conference against the National Football Conference in the annual NFL all-star game. He will be one of two players representing the Ravens, along with free safety Eric Turner.

Turner was an alternate, but was named an AFC starter when Denver safety Steve Atwater underwent off-season knee surgery. This is Turner's second trip to Honolulu; the first was in 1994.

"You really can't get an appreciation of this game until you become a part of it," said Testaverde. "I remember when I first arrived in Cleveland, there were some players there who had been in the league 10 to 12 years, but they didn't get a chance to play in a playoff game.

"Well, in 1994, we got the opportunity and it felt great," he said. "Now I'm getting a shot in the Pro Bowl. It's everything I expected it to be. The weather is great, the people are nice and I've done a lot of sightseeing. I've played golf every day this week."

New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe will start for the AFC, with Testaverde playing the second quarter and the Jacksonville Jaguars' Mark Brunell running the offense in the third. It's a toss-up who will play in the fourth quarter.

"We'll all get equal amounts of playing time," said Testaverde. "All of us want to play. That's one great thing about the experience, that you get to work with a lot of great players."

There is not a lot of competition for playing time. Practices last about an hour, and each team's offense consists of four or five running plays and about a dozen passing plays.

The atmosphere is so relaxed that Testaverde has spent a lot of time trying to pick the brain of Jacksonville and AFC head coach Tom Coughlin, whose Jaguars beat the Ravens twice last season.

"We had two strong, competitive games against the Jaguars, so you're always trying to find an edge," said Testaverde, laughing. "I try to ask him little subtle questions, even on the golf course."

Testaverde had his best season in 1996, completing 325 of 549 passes for 4,177 yards and 33 touchdowns, both second best in the league. His 88.7 quarterback rating was second in the AFC, fifth in the NFL.

There were a number of reasons for Testaverde's success, but )) one was his fear of failure. Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda had a string of quarterback successes in previous years ranging from Sonny Jurgensen to Jim Harbaugh, and Testaverde didn't want to be the one who failed.

"I guess that's one way of looking at it," said Testaverde. "After the year before in Cleveland when I was benched, my main focus was to stay relaxed and achieve what I wanted to. I didn't want to look back in the past, but ahead to the future."

Turner was the Ravens' second-leading tackler with 112, behind rookie linebacker Ray Lewis, who had 142.

Pro Bowl tonight

AFC vs. NFC

Site: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu

Time: 8

TV: Chs. 2, 7

Line: NFC by 2 1/2

Ravens in game: QB Vinny Testaverde, S Eric Turner

Pub Date: 2/02/97

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