Testaverde shuffles on starting issue QB says call would make him happy, but he'll do whatever is best for team


December 08, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht and Vito Stellino | Gary Lambrecht and Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

After watching teammate Eric Zeier lead the Ravens to their first victory since Oct. 26 and their first home victory in three months, Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde deftly sidestepped the post-game question regarding the depth chart at that position.

Should Zeier start next week's game against the Tennessee Oilers?

"That's Ted's decision," said Testaverde, referring to coach Ted Marchibroda. "Whatever he decides has to be OK. I'm not looking at it from either side of the coin. I'll continue to do my best, no matter what happens.

"If I'm a starter, obviously I'll be happy about that. But if I don't start, I'll be ready to play and support this team and support Eric. There's nothing I can do but keep moving forward and get healthy."

Did Zeier earn another shot with his effort?

"That's Ted's decision. I can't call it. Eric made some good plays down the stretch. Like I've said all along, Eric is going to be a great quarterback someday. Every day, you're in competition, especially with a kid who has a lot of ability like Eric."

Staten makes good

When the Ravens made Ralph Staten the 236th pick in the draft in April, he was a project.

A linebacker at Alabama at 205 pounds, he was too small to play that position in the NFL, but the Ravens gambled he could make the transition to safety.

"I'm glad the Big O -- I call him the Big O -- Ozzie Newsome [Ravens vice president of player personnel, who's also a former Alabama player] gave me a chance. I'm thankful for that chance. I think he saw an athlete that can go out there and you can put him at nickel or safety," he said.

When Staten arrived at training camp, he said, "I was worried coming in because I didn't know what to expect in my first year. I told myself I was just going to work hard every day. I believe if the coaches see a guy working hard, they think he can help the team."

Staten played well enough to make the team in an era when teams are happy to find rookies who can play special teams for the minimum salary ($131,000) to help them under the salary cap.

But Staten got to do more yesterday when he made his first start at safety because of the injuries in the secondary, and he made an impressive debut with two interceptions.

Staten, who often took three or four steps back at the snap to guard against the long pass, said: "I had some butterflies, but the older guys helped me out a lot. They told me to just go out and have fun."

Boulware a handful

Rookie linebacker Peter Boulware may have cemented the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year Award with the three hours of abuse he heaped upon Seattle right tackle Grant Williams.

Boulware recorded four tackles, including two sacks, one of which left Seahawks quarterback Warren Moon with strained ligaments in his ribs in the second quarter. Moon eventually gave way to backup John Friesz in the second half.

Boulware, who leads the Ravens and all NFL rookies with 10 1/2 sacks, made life difficult for the overmatched Williams early. He harassed Williams into two false starts and a holding penalty.

"We knew we were going to have trouble with [Boulware]," Seattle coach Dennis Erickson said.

Boulware sensed quickly that, when it came time to rush the passer, he owned Williams.

"Since I could do anything I want against that guy, then I'm the guy on defense who has to take over the game," Boulware said. "I'm just supposed to be wreaking havoc."

On getting to the 41-year-old Moon, Boulware said, "It was a 'Wow' to me. I've been watching Moon for the longest time, ever since I was a kid."

Asked if his season qualifies him for the rookie award, Boulware said: "It would be a privilege, but it's hard to say. We didn't win like we should have. That's the true sign of success."

Veteran safety Bennie Thompson didn't need any more convincing. Asked whether Boulware is the NFL's best defensive rookie, Thompson said, "There's no question about it."

Thompson shows speed

For an eight-year veteran who is considered too slow to play defense, Thompson can still flash his quickness in the open field.

Witness Thompson's performance on Jermaine Lewis' second punt return for a touchdown, in the closing seconds of the first half.

As Lewis weaved his way up the right sideline, Thompson, looking to lead the way, slid over in front of the speedy Lewis and moved a step ahead of him. Then, punter Rohn Stark appeared. Thompson nailed him, springing Lewis for the bulk of his 66-yard return.

"I'm kind of still in this league because of my speed, but sometimes I still let the younger guys get in front of me," Thompson deadpanned. "I heard J. Lew say 'Get him.' [Special teams coach] Scotty [O'Brien] always says never block the kicker, but he was the only one in the way, so I busted him up."

Atonement for Cavil

One of the more satisfying moments for a player in any sport is atoning for a costly mistake, and left guard Ben Cavil experienced that yesterday.

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