Dilfer buys into Ravens' backup plan

Ex-Bucs quarterback agrees to 1-year deal to play behind Banks

Billick system wins him over

`Attack' philosophy is key, says 6-year pro

March 09, 2000|By KEN MURRAY | KEN MURRAY,SUN STAFF

Trent Dilfer wanted a coach who was daring and an offense that ran full-throttle, and the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback found both in Baltimore.

Dilfer agreed to terms yesterday on a one-year, $1 million contract that will make him Tony Banks' backup with the Ravens.

He arrived at those terms and this team after one month of shopping in the free-agent market, mulling potential opportunities with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos.

In the end, Ravens coach Brian Billick won over Dilfer with his aggressive approach and big-play offense.

"The biggest thing is he has a plan," Dilfer said last night. "There is a philosophy in place. There is no doubt what his plan of attack is all the time -- that is, to attack. And the philosophy is we will do whatever it takes to get the ball in the end zone."

The Ravens catch Dilfer on the rebound. After six seasons and 76 starts with Tampa Bay, helping the Bucs turn around their once-moribund franchise, he lost his job to rookie quarterback Shaun King.

At season's end, the Bucs passed on their chance to extend Dilfer's contract, making him a free agent. After going 8-8 last season with three different starters -- Scott Mitchell, Stoney Case and Banks -- the Ravens appreciated what Dilfer offered them.

"Trent gives us a quarterback with 70-some starts who has taken his team to the playoffs and gone to the Pro Bowl," said Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president for player personnel. "Because of the nature of the position and the vulnerability of the quarterback getting hurt, we feel we have another guy who can come in and there won't be a major drop-off at the position."

Billick made certain there was no doubt about Dilfer's role, both in the quarterback's visit last week and in a phone conversation yesterday.

"We were very straightforward about it," Billick said. "A, Tony Banks is our starting quarterback. And B, short of injury, there is nothing going to happen in training camp or preseason games that would change that.

"So he has to understand he's not coming in here competing for the No. 1 quarterback job."

Dilfer, who turns 28 on Monday, understands.

"Mentally, I can do whatever it takes to make the team better," he said. "I'm a team guy 100 percent. I grew up around the game. My stepfather was a football coach and I grew up as a ballboy. I know the importance of team.

"This is a chance to be with somebody who can bring out the best in me. That's all I ever wanted."

In Tampa, Dilfer labored with an ultra-conservative offense built heavily around the running game. He had a Pro Bowl season in 1997, when the Bucs ended a 14-year playoff drought.

But disappointment followed in 1998, when the Bucs missed the playoffs, and six games into 1999, Dilfer was benched. An injury to Eric Zeier got Dilfer back in the lineup -- the Bucs won his last four starts -- before a broken collarbone effectively ended his career there.

He insists he has no ill will over what became a difficult departure.

"I'm not bitter," Dilfer said. "The thing that hurts the most is that people haven't talked about the great things in Tampa. I was part of the turnaround. I love my [former] teammates to death, and I had great coaches. I have nothing but the highest praise for [coach] Tony Dungy.

"Circumstances change. I'm all about moving forward."

Jeff Tedford knows what the Ravens are getting in Dilfer. Tedford was the offensive coordinator at Fresno State when Dilfer led the nation in passer efficiency and set an NCAA record with 271 passes without an interception.

"They're getting a guy that's very competitive and wants to win," said Tedford, now at Oregon and still a close friend of Dilfer's. "The guy has ability to make a lot of plays if given the opportunity.

"The [offensive] creativity in Tampa Bay was a little lackluster. For any quarterback to thrive in that situation is very hard."

Dilfer is eager to start anew in Baltimore.

"It's a neat town," he said. "My mother [Marcie Farris Lynch] grew up outside Baltimore, from [age] 7 through college. She went to the University of Maryland, was a schoolteacher and still has a lot of ties there.

"I've heard nothing but great things. I've heard it's a blue-collar city, and I'm excited about that because I consider myself a blue-collar quarterback."

Trent Dilfer file

Position: Quarterback.

Age: 27. Height: 6-4. Weight: 229. Years pro: 6.

College: Fresno State. Drafted: 1994 by Tampa Bay, 1st round, 6th overall.

Career statistics

Year ........Team ........Att. ......Com. ......Yds. ......TD .....INT .....LG ....Rat.

1994 ....Tampa Bay ....82 ..........38 .......433 .........1 .......6 .......42 ....36.5

1995 ....Tampa Bay ..415 ........224 ....2,774 .........4 .....18 ......64t ....60.1

1996 ....Tampa Bay ..482 ........267 ....2,859 .......12 .....19 .......45 ....64.8

1997 ....Tampa Bay ..386 ........217 ....2,555 .......21 .....11 ......59t ....82.8

1998 ....Tampa Bay ..429 ........225 ....2,729 .......21 .....15 ......79t ....74.0

1999 ....Tampa Bay ..244 ........146 ....1,619 .......11 .....11 ......62t ....75.8

Totals .....................2,038 ....1,117 ...12,969 ......70 .....80

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