A year later, Banks realizes what he learned from Dilfer

When both were Ravens, Redskins quarterback got help from his backup

NFL Week 8

November 04, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. -- Sometime today, perhaps before the crowds stream into FedEx Field for the Washington Redskins-Seattle Seahawks game, Tony Banks expects to catch up with Trent Dilfer about their lives a year ago up I-95.

Among the words the former Ravens quarterbacks exchange may be a couple you might not expect, namely, "I'm sorry."

Banks, who was supplanted as the Baltimore starter in the midst of the Ravens' five-game touchdown drought last season by Dilfer, who then took the team to a Super Bowl win, plans to apologize to Dilfer for his inability to handle the change.

"When Trent was the backup, he was supportive and helpful, but when things changed and I became the backup, I didn't help him as much as I could have," Banks said last week. "If I had it to do over again, I would have been a better backup to him. He's not the most physically gifted player, but his spirit is there and he never stops trying."

Banks said when he was starting, Dilfer, who shares his penchant for practical jokes, would regularly prepare videotapes with the kinds of defensive fronts and blitz packages he could expect to see from that week's opponent. Banks didn't return the favor when Dilfer replaced him during the Tennessee game on Oct. 22, and rode the wave all the way to the Super Bowl.

"Trent's a big input guy. When he's the backup, he's big on the computers, kind of like [Ravens coach Brian] Billick. He would get everything on one tape so that when I came in on Wednesday, he would have everything that I asked for on one tape," Banks said. "He'd ask me on Tuesday what I wanted [when they worked out together] and it would be really smooth."

Of course, their fortunes have changed considerably, as the Ravens let both Dilfer and Banks go after winning the Super Bowl. Dilfer waited for months, hoping to find a place he could start, before signing with the Seahawks in August in training camp.

And, in a twist of fate, Dilfer, who is 17-1 in his past 18 starts covering his time in Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Seattle, is a backup again, behind Matt Hasselbeck.

Dilfer got starts in Seattle's wins over Jacksonville and Denver, when Hasselbeck suffered a groin injury, but was right back on the bench last week in the Seahawks' 24-20 loss to Miami, and will be there today as well.

"The biggest thing I can do for Matt is be his No. 1 fan," Dilfer told the Eastside (Wash.) Journal before the season. "People have just lost the concept of that. You talk to older quarterbacks, guys who played in the '60s and '70s, and the backup was always his biggest fan. He was the guy that stood up for him, argued for him, took reps for him when he was tired. He did anything he could so that the starter was ready to play on Sunday."

It appears that Banks, who landed with the Redskins in training camp after being cut by Dallas, is still learning from Dilfer, if in no other area than leadership. Banks, who is with his fourth club in six seasons, has asserted himself as the offensive leader since he was named starter six weeks ago, taking charge of the huddle.

Until the fourth quarter of the Carolina game, which the Redskins won in overtime, 17-14, Banks' leadership was mostly vocal, as he struggled to learn the complex Washington offense.

But in the past six quarters, Banks has thrown for 405 yards on 16-for-27 passing with three touchdowns and a 47-yard completion in overtime against Carolina to set up the winning field goal.

"That's a lot of confidence shown by him, and I respect that out of him," said offensive tackle Chris Samuels, "but his play has caught up with that now. He's definitely playing good ball, and I respect him and our teammates respect him and we're just happy to have him on board. That shows a lot of character on his part to come in with that confidence. A lot of guys would have come in and tucked up under a shell, but Tony came in and stuck his chest out and said, `I'm going to do this.' I respect that, and he's definitely doing that now."

With the Redskins on a two-game win streak, including last Sunday's 35-21 upset of the New York Giants, Banks is in a good place professionally. But he need only look across the field sometime today at Dilfer for a reminder that things can change in a hurry.

"I haven't really been able to get comfortable. When I first came to the Rams, I thought that would work. Obviously, that didn't happen. Baltimore was kind of a pit stop. I think I had a premonition that I wasn't going to be there as long as that contract would have lasted," Banks said. "The thing that I can control is how I play on Sunday and how I prepare during the week. If I do that, somebody will find me a home."

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