No resolution for Testaverde QB says meeting with Modell leaves 'unresolved issues'

December 13, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde met with owner Art Modell yesterday for nearly an hour to discuss his recent benching, and left the meeting with his status for the 1998 season undetermined.

Testaverde, 34, has three years left on a contract that will pay him $4 million in 1998 ($1.5 million guaranteed), $5 million in 1999 and $6 million in 2000.

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda benched Testaverde on Wednesday in favor of third-year player Eric Zeier, who sparked the team to a 31-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, throwing for 302 yards and a touchdown.

It was the team's first victory in its past six games.

"There are still some unresolved issues here," Testaverde said. "I'm very disappointed in the way things have taken place the last couple of weeks. I believe I should be in there playing. If I'm not going to be the starting quarterback in the future, then come out and say it.

"I wanted to know my future with the team so that I can approach next season in the right frame of mind," he said. "I have not demanded a trade. There are some issues we will pursue after the season. I really don't want to get into them right now."

After the meeting, Modell met with Marchibroda and Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel. Marchibroda was unavailable for comment, and Newsome referred all questions to Modell.

"It was a one-on-one discussion -- an uneventful meeting, but a good one," said Modell. "We've had meetings like this at other times in the past. I'm not going to deal with any speculation. Vinny Testaverde has a role to play for the rest of the season, hopefully next year and for several more to come.

"I don't know what that role will be and it won't be determined until the end of the year when we evaluate all our people -- coaches, players and any other talents," Modell said.

According to a source within the organization, Modell and Testaverde also discussed the possibility of the Ravens trading up in the April draft to select a quarterback, either Peyton Manning of Tennessee or Washington State's Ryan Leaf, and a report in a Buffalo newspaper that Marchibroda had offered retired Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, 37, a three-year contract to play for the Ravens.

Marchibroda was the Bills' offensive coordinator for several years while Kelly was the quarterback. Kelly retired from the Bills last season after 11 years.

The source said Modell told Testaverde he has no plans to trade up for a quarterback and the owner dismissed any talks with Kelly during the team's practice yesterday.

"The report is false," Modell said. "There is no truth to it. Zero. Zilch. No request and no demand."

Marchibroda dismissed the report with a joke: "If I'm bringing in Jim Kelly, I might as well bring in James Lofton, too."

Testaverde said he was concerned about being the scapegoat for the team's losing season. He 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 rating of 88.7.

Testaverde has struggled this season. He has completed 271 of 470 passes for 2,971 yards and 18 touchdowns, but has thrown 15 interceptions. His play improved in his past two games.

"A year ago, I had a Pro Bowl season and I'll be the first to admit I haven't played up to a Pro Bowl form," Testaverde said.

"But I've played hurt and so have other players. The entire offense didn't have a great year. I don't want to be the person that everyone blames for having a losing season. But the way this is being outlined, it looks more and more like it's going to be that way."

Several players close to Testaverde said he was not happy by the way Marchibroda handled the situation.

When the Ravens were eliminated from the playoffs after tying Philadelphia, 10-10, and losing to Arizona, 16-13, in the 11th and 12th games, Marchibroda said he would not play younger players, including Zeier, because he already knew what they could do and he wanted to give the Ravens their best chance of winning by staying with Testaverde.

Also, there is a custom in the league that starters cannot lose their jobs because of injuries.

Testaverde strained his left knee in the second quarter against Jacksonville two weeks ago, which forced the Ravens to start Zeier on Sunday against the Seahawks.

On Wednesday, Testaverde suggested there were other, outside influences that led to his demotion, though he did not go into detail.

There is speculation that Marchibroda gave in to media and fan pressure and concerns about ticket sales when the team moves into a new stadium next season.

Modell, who was involved in a quarterback controversy three years ago in Cleveland when Zeier replaced Testaverde, supported Marchibroda.

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