Redman, Blake are still defining roles

Ravens want 11-year vet to be mentor to young QB

Pro Football

May 24, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens want veteran quarterback Jeff Blake to become a mentor to Chris Redman.

With two off-season camps completed, that relationship remains a work in progress. The two quarterbacks appear friendly toward each other, yet both seem to be feeling out their roles.

It's a unique situation for a team to ask an 11-year veteran like Blake to back up and nurture Redman, a veteran of two NFL quarters. But the Ravens are confident that their quarterbacks will eventually mesh.

"A lot of what we based our decision to bring Jeff in was based on chemistry," Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "Would Jeff be what we need him to be - a guy who is going to tutor Chris and help him develop? He was going to have to put his own ego in check."

While Cavanaugh said he talked with Blake about guiding Redman, Blake said that no one from the team has approached him to be a mentor.

"If somebody has a question, you answer the question," Blake said. "But I'm not out there trying to coach Chris. That is Cavanaugh's and [Brian] Billick's job; that's not my job. If Chris has a question about something he sees on the field and feels that I may be able help, then he can come and ask me. Other than that, that's about as far as it goes."

Redman acknowledged that it can be an awkward situation for Blake.

"We haven't gotten real close, but you can see he's already one of the guys," Redman said. "He fits in real well. I'm sure he wants to play, and he's capable. He's used to being a leader, so I'm sure it's kind of hard to back up a young guy. But he's handling it well."

The Ravens were banking on Blake's help because of recent history.

In New Orleans, Blake lost his starting job to Aaron Brooks after breaking his foot in 2000 and didn't regain the spot the next season. Instead of being bitter, Blake agreed to restructure his contract before the 2001 season to give the team more salary-cap room and even held a news conference with Brooks at the start of camp as a show of unity.

"You do more than cross your fingers and hope it works out," Cavanaugh said. "You research it, you talk to the guy, and you make it crystal clear what the roles are going to be."

And Blake understands that role. "It's Chris' job to lose," he said.

In this week's passing camp, Redman showed confidence and accuracy. He highlighted the seven-on-seven drills yesterday by firing deep throws to rookie receiver Ron Johnson.

Blake is finding the same comfort level in the system, displaying good mobility and a strong arm.

But Billick, who has stressed that there is no open competition between Redman and Blake, indicated that passing camp isn't being used as an audition. In fact, he plans to extend Redman a longer leash in this rebuilding season. In his previous three seasons as an NFL coach, Billick has made four quarterback changes.

"We're going to be very tolerant of Chris," Billick said. "But Chris knows that he has to perform at a certain level. More importantly, Chris has to show that he's improving."

Redman's development could be cultivated through a positive relationship with Blake, who has thrown for 17,199 yards and compiled a 32-45 record as a starter. The Ravens, though, aren't going to force the issue.

"I think it's got to come naturally, though, to the two guys," Cavanaugh said. "It has to be something that Jeff is comfortable doing and he may not be real comfortable doing it yet. He may learn to get comfortable trusting Chris and trusting that Chris is going to trust what he says and take it to heart. But I really believe that each day that they're out there together that they're going to learn from each other."

But Blake said his instruction shouldn't factor into Redman's performance.

"No matter what I tell Chris, he has to play the game on the field," Blake said. "So, no matter what the coaches say or whatever I say, you can either play ball or you can't. What he does on the field, that's what determines if he plays or not."

NOTES: Running back Jamal Lewis missed his second straight day of passing camp for personal reasons. ... The Ravens' next passing camp is June 3 to June 6. ... Yesterday's practice ended with a special teams tip drill in which players had to keep volleyballs from breaking the goal line by batting them away. It was another creative drill from special teams coach Gary Zauner.

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