Case scrambles after release, completes deal with Ravens

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

After being cut by Colts, quarterback signs for 1 year

August 18, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Quarterback Stoney Case could not believe the turn his professional life had just taken. As Peyton Manning's backup, he had completed his first preseason effort with the Indianapolis Colts with a solid effort, connecting on five of six passes and showing good scrambling ability.

No matter. Case, who had signed a two-year deal with the Colts and collected a $500,000 signing bonus, found out last Wednesday that Indianapolis was cutting him to make room for newly acquired backup Steve Walsh. With that, Case signed a one-year deal with the Ravens, with whom he practiced for the first time yesterday.

Case, 6 feet 3, 201 pounds, a fifth-year player out of New Mexico who has not thrown a touchdown pass while starting only one game as a pro, said the last thing he expected was his release from the Colts.

"It was out of the blue, totally unexpected. Next to Peyton Manning, I was the last person that anybody thought [was in trouble]," Case said. "I was out there working hard, doing good things. I had a good game against Chicago.

"Three days later, they call me and say they're going to go with Steve Walsh as a No. 2. I said `Are you serious?' It was a two-minute conversation. They didn't give me a reason. They're out the money.

"Peyton took every snap last year. He gets two-thirds of the reps, even in minicamp, and the rest of the quarterbacks divide the other third. The backup quarterback in Indy is almost an afterthought. If [Manning] goes down, they're in trouble."

Ravens coach Brian Billick said Case was on his list of quarterback candidates in the off-season. He figures Case will need a few days to get familiar with the offense, but should be ready to play in the third preseason game against Carolina on Aug. 28.

Case figures to put immediate pressure on Wally Richardson for the No. 3 job, and Billick thinks he could apply similar pressure to Tony Banks' hold on the No. 2 position down the road.

"It all adds up. Size, athleticism, smarts, nice quick release, he carries the ball well," Billick said of Case. "Look at the guy. He belongs on the cover of GQ. I'm a hero with the secretaries."

Matt Cavanaugh, the Ravens' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, worked with Case in his rookie season with Arizona in 1995.

"He's got a lot of ability. He's just very raw right now," Cavanaugh said. "He's in a position where he's got a chance to push some people, and I think we need that. We don't want our quarterbacks feeling so comfortable that they don't feel anybody nipping at their heels. I think he's got the smarts and ability to push Wally, Tony and maybe even push [starter] Scott [Mitchell.]"

A third-round draft pick of Arizona's in 1995, Case's only season of note came in 1997, when he played in two games, started one and completed 29 of 55 passes for 316 yards and two interceptions.

Thompson still has it

The consensus among the Ravens' coaching staff in three previous seasons was that reserve safety and special teams standout Bennie Thompson was too old and too slow to play in the defensive backfield anymore.

The new staff, specifically defensive backs coach Steve Shafer, begs to differ.

After watching Thompson, 36, practice for nearly three weeks and perform in an intrasquad scrimmage and one preseason game -- Thompson had three tackles, a forced fumble and a pass deflection against Philadelphia last week -- Shafer says Thompson could be spending more time on the field as an extra back this fall.

"I'm not going to be afraid to play him. Every time I put him on the field, he makes plays," Shafer said of Thompson, a 10-year veteran.

"Bennie is working his tail off. He knows the defenses. He really works at the skills of the game. One thing he does always is play at 100 miles an hour. That's what has kept him in this league all this time."

The J. Lewis factor

Billick made it a point earlier this week to say he has yet to see anybody among his struggling group of wide receivers emerge as an "absolute go-to guy."

Yes, that includes you, Jermaine Lewis.

Coming into camp, even at 5 feet 7, Lewis seemed to tower over the rest of the group, which includes such unproven players as Patrick Johnson, Justin Armour, Billy Davis, Qadry Ismail and Brandon Stokley and aging players like Floyd Turner and Webster Slaughter.

As the Ravens round out their third week of camp, Lewis has been tough to gauge. He has dropped some passes, although not nearly as many as some of his competition. He has not had horrendous practices by any stretch. He also failed to get involved in the offense in last week's preseason opener.

Lewis said mastering the demands of Billick's system has been a challenge, and coming into camp as the front-running receiver was a strange feeling.

"I think [Billick] has a little different level of expectation for me, and I'm getting used to that role," said Lewis, who last year signed a five-year contract extension that included a $3 million signing bonus. "I'm used to coming up from the bottom.

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