Grbac's availability is up in air

Bruised ribs make Ravens quarterback questionable for Jags

Likely game-time decision

Tessendorf: `We have to see how it reacts'

October 25, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The availability of Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac will likely be a game-time decision on Sunday.

Grbac, who has been knocked out of the past two games, is questionable for this week's contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars after suffering bruised ribs Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

Grbac, in his ninth year, threw very little in yesterday's practice as backup Randall Cunningham took a majority of the repetitions with the first-team offense.

Asked when the Ravens will make their final decision on Grbac, coach Brian Billick said, "Probably about 30 seconds before we come out of the tunnel."

After practice, trainer Bill Tessendorf indicated that Grbac's status would remain questionable - meaning he has a 50 percent chance of playing.

"We have to see how it reacts over time," Tessendorf said.

Although Grbac has missed only one of his previous 40 starts, the 31-year-old quarterback has endured a taxing couple of games.

Two weeks ago, he was forced out midway through the fourth quarter in Green Bay with a concussion and sprained neck. On Sunday, he injured his ribs in Cleveland early in the third quarter, when he fell onto the ball after one of the Browns' three sacks against him.

Grbac admitted to sensing the urgency of starting for the Ravens (3-3) on Sunday, but he has to consider the long-term risks, too.

"This is one of the injuries you've got to be smart with, because it really involves a lot of the things I do throwing the ball," said Grbac, who has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,348 yards and six touchdowns.

"Going in there and getting it re-injured takes a lot longer to come back from. It will be interesting to see. My health the next couple of days - we'll see what the progress is and what I can do Sunday."

His aches aren't the only lingering effects from the back-to-back losses.

In three losses, Grbac has had a hand in 10 turnovers, which is more of a reflection on the Ravens' lack of protection around him. Rushing his decisions, he ranks fourth in the NFL in interceptions with eight and third with three fumbles lost.

But these weekly beatings are testing Grbac, who hasn't missed a start since Nov. 26, 2000.

"It's part of the job that I've taken," Grbac said. "Being an NFL quarterback, it just comes with the territory, and you understand that. It's six to eight months out of the year that you're ready to get banged up every Sunday. You don't wish you get the injuries you get, but everyone gets bumps and bruises. Mine is a little different because it hinders my ability to throw a little bit."

If Grbac is sidelined Sunday, Cunningham will make his 134th NFL start - but first since Nov. 5, 2000.

In closing out the past two losses, Cunningham has directed three touchdown drives despite completing just 47 percent of his passes. Still, the former two-time league Most Valuable Player isn't unnerved about the possibility of starting this pivotal AFC Central game.

"I'm always prepared to do whatever it takes," Cunningham said. "You can't be caught by surprise. I just really believe that any point in time that I can be in the lineup. It's tough being a backup, because you never know, so I prepare my mind for the unexpected."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars

Site: PSINet Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 7 1/2

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