Testaverde remains starter Ravens QB's knee strained, bruised, but 'he's feeling better'

Despite rally, Zeier No. 2

Marchibroda: 'We want to finish strong'

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

Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde was diagnosed to have a slight ligament strain and a bruised bone in his left knee yesterday, but he is expected to start Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks at Memorial Stadium.

Testaverde hurt the knee in the second period of Sunday's 29-27 loss to Jacksonville when running back Bam Morris blocked safety Travis Davis into the quarterback. Eric Zeier, the third-year quarterback out of Georgia, replaced Testaverde for the rest of the game.

According to team trainer Bill Tessendorf, an MRI yesterday morning revealed Testaverde had a contusion on the bone near his shin and a mild stretch of the posterior cruciate ligament.

"He [Testaverde] said he was feeling better today," Tessendorf said. "There is no surgery needed, it's just a matter of letting the inflammation settle down and then seeing what it's like. His availability is day-to-day."

Marchibroda said he expected Testaverde to start after conferring with team doctors yesterday morning. Marchibroda also downplayed any chance of a quarterback controversy.

Testaverde played well in the first half of Sunday's game, completing 11 of 17 passes for

101 yards and throwing a nice 15-yard touchdown pass to slot receiver Jermaine Lewis in the second quarter. But Zeier also was effective, completing seven of 12 passes for 87 yards and leading the Ravens to two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Testaverde has thrown six interceptions compared to just three touchdown passes in the past five games, but Marchibroda said Zeier would get more repetitions than usual this week only because of Testaverde's injury.

"It's hard to get two quarterbacks ready, but we'll get him more reps than usual," Marchibroda said about Zeier. "I've said before that Eric is more of an accurate passer than I thought before I arrived. But his job is to do exactly what he did yesterday. His job is to be ready, come in and get it done without a lot of reps.

"Even if he started the remaining games I don't know if it would be a true test because it is the end of the year," said Marchibroda, in response to questions about starting Zeier because the Ravens are out of playoff contention. "There is no question that playing time helps, but we want to finish the season strong."

Zeier was involved in a quarterback controversy with Testaverde in his rookie year with the Cleveland Browns. Zeier made his NFL starting debut on Oct. 29, 1995, by throwing for 310 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown pass in a 29-26 overtime win at Cincinnati. But he went 1-3 as a starter.

Testaverde has won only eight games in Baltimore as a starter, but had a Pro Bowl season a year ago when he threw for 33 touchdowns, 4,177 yards and had a quarterback rating of 88.7.

Testaverde, 34, has struggled this season, completing 271 of 470 passes for 2,971 yards and 18 touchdowns, but he has thrown 15 interceptions. His play has improved the past two games, but the Ravens are 1-7-1 in their past nine.

"As far as I'm concerned, I compete with Eric every day," Testaverde said. "I don't assume the position is mine because I'm here. I work hard at it every day. If Ted decides to change it, then it will be changed. Until then, I'm the quarterback and that's the way it goes."

Testaverde said that if Marchibroda was going to make a change, it probably would have come after the team lost to Arizona, 16-13, a week ago when the Ravens were essentially eliminated from the playoff race.

"If Ted wanted to give the younger guys some work and Eric in particular, I think he would have done it then," Testaverde said. "But he wants to win every game and so do I.

"It makes my life difficult listening to all the negative talk," he added. "I don't care who you are, no one likes to listen to that. You have to grin and bear it."

Zeier, 25, said: "All I want to do is help this team win games. I'll work hard and if I get the opportunity, we'll see what happens.

"I've been thrown in during some tough situations over the years, but you have to learn from them and move on. Every quarterback wants to be a starter in this league. I'll work hard, be patient, get as many reps as possible and try not to get frustrated."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Seattle Seahawks

Site: Memorial Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 11 (subject to blackout rule)/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Off the board

Tickets: 6,100 remain

Series: First meeting

Pub Date: 12/02/97

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