Fallen QB Redman provides uplifting moment for Ravens

April 17, 2000|By Ken Rosenthal

Brian Billick was an assistant public relations director for the San Francisco 49ers when they selected Joe Montana in the third round of the 1979 NFL draft.

The reaction in the war room, Billick said, didn't come close to matching the Ravens' reaction Saturday night when they drafted quarterback Chris Redman in the third round.

"It was just noise," Ravens director of college scouting Phil Savage recalled yesterday, laughing.

Redman was the first player that Savage watched on tape last May after the Ravens failed to pick a quarterback -- and the last player that Savage watched Friday night on the eve of the draft.

At that point, Savage wasn't even certain the Ravens would get a chance to pick Redman -- they had traded away the second-round choice that was earmarked for the Louisville quarterback.

But one last time, Savage tried to determine why other teams no longer projected Redman as a first-rounder.

"Every tape I put in, when he had his worst games, he was hitting passes," Savage said yesterday. `I'm like, `What do we want?' "

If Savage were a doctor, he would have been described as too emotionally involved with his patient. But Redman, too, was disappointed. He wanted to play in Baltimore, just like his mentor, former Louisville quarterback John Unitas.

It was destiny, wasn't it? Redman had won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award as the nation's top senior quarterback. And Unitas had lobbied the Ravens to take Redman in the draft.

"I know he did," Redman said on a conference call yesterday, chuckling. "He got to see me in a lot more games than most people have. He told me he watched some film on me, too. He really helped me a lot with some little fundamental things and his outlook on the game.

"I think he sees a lot of himself in me, as far as toughness. He was one of the toughest players ever. That's special, to have a guy like that in your corner. I'm sure it helped."

But once the Ravens sent their 15th and 45th picks to Denver for the 10th overall selection, Redman figured there was no way he would end up in Baltimore.

And once the team declined to trade out of the No. 5 spot for additional picks on draft day, Savage figured there was no way the Ravens would get him.

Billick said the Ravens definitely would have selected Redman in the second round, and strongly considered him as a late first-rounder if they had succeeded in obtaining the 12th and 27th picks from the New York Jets.

But again, no trade was made. The Ravens selected Jamal Lewis at five and Travis Taylor at 10, then went without a pick until the 75th overall selection.

"I went back to my office and felt really good about our two picks," Savage said. "But I was thinking, `Chris Redman, he'll be somewhere else. I can't believe he'll be somewhere else other than Baltimore.' "

But neither Savage nor anyone else knew how dramatically Redman's stock had fallen since the NFL combine, where he ran 40 yards in a dinosaur-like 5.3 seconds.

Redman also has endured a number of injuries, including spine/disc-related problems since his sophomore year. And in the end, all those mock drafts projecting him as a second-rounder were too optimistic.

"At the combine, when he did the testing drills -- the 40 and the short shuttles all those things -- it wasn't very impressive," Savage said.

"But when they put the ball in his hands, and they had him do quarterback drops and foot movements and moving around in the pocket and throwing, he looked like the best quarterback in the draft."

But Chad Pennington was the first quarterback taken, going to the New York Jets at No. 18. And even Giovanni Carmazzi went ahead of Redman, going to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 65.

Two interested teams -- New Orleans and Atlanta -- failed to select Redman in the second round. Savage then identified Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh as "bumps in the road" in the third.

If any of those teams had selected Redman, Ravens vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome likely would have traded down.

"We were fielding calls," Billick said. "We had two or three deals set up. Everyone kept saying, `If Redman is there, we're going to take him. But there's no way he's going to be there at 75.' "

66, 67, 68

Still no takers.

71, 72, 73

The excitement in the room began to build.

"All of a sudden, it was, `Whoa, everyone stop a second. He may make it here,' " Billick said. "And it was an absolute slam-dunk. At that point, Ozzie just picked up the phone and started speed-dialing [other teams]. " `Sorry, we've got our guy. Sorry, we've got our guy.' "

The room erupted, and Savage gleefully chest-bumped area scout Terry McDonough. Back home in Louisville, Redman described himself as "really ecstatic." And Billick called Unitas in Miami, where the former Colt was participating in a golf tournament.

"I know he'll enjoy this," Billick said of Unitas, who stands on the Ravens' sideline at every home game.

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