Banks won't pass on fresh start

Redskins QB draws on Ravens experience

September 28, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. -- Tony Banks' Super Bowl ring is just as gaudy and full of symbolism as the ones any of last year's Ravens wear.

But while the jewelry of his former teammates marks the ultimate achievement in football, Banks' ring, at least to his way of thinking, represents failure.

So, Banks, who began last season as the starting quarterback of the world champion Ravens, doesn't wear his Super Bowl ring, because he didn't finish the 2000 season as the starter.

"It [owning the ring] is bittersweet. I don't wear it yet, and I don't imagine wearing it until I get my own, so I can have two, one with me being a starter and then the other one so I don't have to answer any questions about it," said Banks.

Banks' road toward personal redemption and in the direction of getting that second ring will begin Sunday when he takes over as the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins when they meet the Kansas City Chiefs.

And, considering how badly things ended for him personally in Baltimore, looking on from the outside as Trent Dilfer led the Ravens to a title, it's odd that Banks would draw upon an experience from his time up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway for comfort as he takes over a Redskins team that has been beaten by a combined score of 67-3 in two games.

But Banks' memory of the 1999 season, when he started the year as the Ravens' third-string quarterback, then became the starter in Week 6, helping Baltimore finish 8-8 after a 2-6 start, is one of the tent posts that he is propping his faith on.

"We needed some kind of spark, and we ended up turning that around, so at least I have that in my resume. Hopefully, we can do it here and I have more games to do it in," Banks said.

It has been a long, strange trip for Banks in the nearly full calendar year since he was last at FedEx Field, throwing a costly interception at the end of the first half of the Ravens' 10-3 loss to the Redskins.

To wit, he has:

Been benched in Baltimore during a stretch of futility in which the Ravens went five games without a touchdown.

Watched from the bench as the Ravens won the Super Bowl with Dilfer.

Signed in March with the lowly Dallas Cowboys as their starter, only to be released in the first two weeks of training camp.

Signed with the Redskins as Jeff George's backup three days after being waived by Dallas.

Even with being benched in Baltimore and waived from Dallas, Banks thought he'd get another chance to be a starter somewhere.

"Nothing surprises me, so I knew it was possible," Banks said. "And I knew once I got out here and started practicing that these coaches would get excited about my abilities. I just thought that all along and I never wavered in my confidence in my ability to put the ball where it needs to be."

If Banks, 28, in his sixth year out of Michigan State, has been resolute in his belief in his own skills, others haven't.

After his first three years in St. Louis -- the last two under coach Dick Vermeil -- Banks got a reputation for making mistakes in key situations.

Vermeil, who eventually traded Banks to Baltimore for two late-round draft choices before the 1999 season, when the Rams won the Super Bowl, says Banks was a "victim" of lofty expectations.

After Banks was released by the Cowboys in August, Vermeil, now the Chiefs' coach, called the quarterback and new Washington coach Marty Schottenheimer, a close friend of Vermeil's.

Vermeil played matchmaker, telling the quarterback that his deep-ball throwing skill could work with the conservative Schottenheimer, and convincing the coach that Banks had matured to the point where he could be trusted to run an offense.

Schottenheimer warily signed on.

"I felt in watching Tony over the past several weeks, it [a chance to start] was very important to him," Schottenheimer said. "He worked diligently to try to learn and understand so that when his opportunity came, he would have the best chance of performing in a winning fashion. Now that that time is here, we get a chance to find out if that will happen."

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