Banks visits Ravens' complex

Rams quarterback is second option to back up Mitchell

April 14, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

St. Louis Rams quarterback Tony Banks, who has been shopped around the league as trade bait to almost every team during the off-season, visited the Ravens' Owings Mills training complex yesterday and underwent a physical examination by the team.

Banks, 6 feet 4, 215 pounds, is considered the second option to Warren Moon, 42, as a backup to starter Scott Mitchell next season. Banks, a four-year veteran, started all but two games for the Rams last season and was 12th in the NFC in passing, completing 241 of 408 passes for 2,535 yards with seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

He fell out of favor with Rams coach Dick Vermeil and St. Louis fans on Oct. 18, when the Rams were beaten, 14-0, by the Miami Dolphins and Banks missed the flight home as well as the next day of practice.

Banks has been through a number of offensive systems in four years with the Rams, and Vermeil feels he can still be a good quarterback.

But Vermeil no longer has time to find out. This season is a make-or-break year for the 62-year old coach.

Banks was not available for comment yesterday.

"We're just exploring another option," said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "If it doesn't work out with Warren Moon, then we'll consider Banks. Eric Zeier is still an option for us as well. We're not closing the door on Eric, despite what some people may think. I guarantee you we will have four quarterbacks in training camp."

The Ravens are still waiting for an answer from Moon, who has been deciding the past two weeks. Moon's agent, Leigh Steinberg, did not return phone calls yesterday. If the Ravens don't get Moon, then the team would trade a late-round draft pick for Banks and pick up his tendered $577,000 salary for the 1999 season.

In that scenario, the Ravens would then try to trade Zeier for a late-round draft pick, possibly with Kansas City, which is also in the market for Moon. Zeier has been with the organization since he was drafted in the third round by the Cleveland Browns in 1995.

Zeier backed up Vinny Testaverde and Jim Harbaugh the last two seasons. Last year, he completed 107 of 181 passes for 1,312 yards and four touchdowns.

"Anytime you get a new coach, there is a lot of talk, speculation and a lot of change. We've already had a lot of changes, but if I'm one of them, so be it," Zeier said. "I've spoken with Coach Billick, and I like the way he and his staff approach the game. I think this is a great organization, I've been loyal to them and they have given me the opportunity to play during the past couple of years.

"I'm approaching every day as if I'm going to be here next season. That's the only way I can look at it. If I'm not here, then I'll move on and work hard for someone else."

Zeier felt his height, 6-1, should not be a factor in the Ravens possibly trading him. Billick prefers a taller quarterback.

"That may be his preference," Zeier said. "He has worked with quarterbacks my size. Jim McMahon was my size. If you look at the number of balls I have had batted down over the years, it's no different than anyone else's. I think my numbers such as completions, interceptions and touchdowns have been decent.

"Could I have played better? Yes. But it had nothing to do with my size. You can't put the blame there. I've played at this size all my life and there is nothing I can do about it. It's not a problem, it's his preference and that's something I disagree with."

Former Ravens running back Errict Rhett, an unrestricted free agent, said he will make a decision on returning to the Ravens shortly after the draft. New England and St. Louis have interest in Rhett.

"I'll wait to see which team takes a running back," Rhett said. "I don't want to be in the same situation where I was the last two years where I wasn't allowed to compete for a starting job. I think I have proved that I'm a competitor. I just want to be given a chance."

Pub Date: 4/14/99

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