Young and relentless, QB learns by example

Ravens: Determined to make the most of his first training camp as the starter, Chris Redman must be both student and leader.

August 04, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

For Chris Redman, the first week of Ravens training camp seemed like surviving an all-out blitz.

Coaches barked at his poor decisions. Crowds drooled over deep throws by his backup. And a third-string linebacker intercepted one of his passes before 9,000 fans.

But the first-year starting quarterback - he has spent the past two seasons as the Ravens' third-stringer since being selected 75th overall in the 2000 NFL draft - took the hits and remained standing.

"I was making sure that he wasn't overwhelmed," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "But he's not intimidated by his opportunity."

As Redman learned his lessons this week, the Ravens learned about his resilience.

After getting chewed out by Cavanaugh for a misread, Redman came back to throw a perfectly timed 30-yard pass to Travis Taylor. Then, after an interception in the end zone during red-zone drills, he didn't flinch going to tight end John Jones in tight coverage, threading a pass over the middle for a score.

Redman may not be polished, but he has proved his poise under pressure.

"Honestly, I feel so much better every day," Redman said. "As long as I keep progressing and don't get complacent, I feel that it's going to be good for me."

The Ravens are committed to giving Redman time in the pocket.

Although backup Jeff Blake has been impressive, the Ravens want Redman to see camp as a comfort zone, not a battleground. To find out if Redman is the quarterback of the future, he has to be allowed to mature in the present.

"I certainly would bet on Chris Redman being the starter come the regular season," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "There are a number of scenarios that could bring about that type of change. It would shock me if Chris fell into that type of glassy-eyed, paralysis-by-analysis reaction to the pressure. I just don't see that in Chris Redman.

"[The media] all write that it's his job to lose, so to speak. I don't know if it's that close in a sense we're going to give Chris every opportunity, and just the four preseason games is not every opportunity. It's going to take more."

The challenge for Redman is becoming a leader while still being a student.

When he makes mistakes, he cannot lose command of the huddle. That was the message delivered by Billick before Friday's scrimmage.

"I'm just looking for you to work the system with these guys," Billick told Redman. "No heroics. Don't need the laser throw. Don't need the big gain. Just show them you're in charge."

Redman made a positive impression, completing seven of 10 passes for 83 yards. He was sharp on his throws and seemed confident with decision-making.

His week, though, ended on a down note. On one of his final throws yesterday, he didn't put enough arc on a pass and was intercepted by reserve linebacker Casey Tisdale to end a two-minute drill.

"He's mentally tough, and he showed that in the scrimmage," Cavanaugh said. "I think he's going to be OK. I really do."

Getting schooled

This week's practices have become a series of pop quizzes for Redman.

If he locks onto a receiver too long or forces a throw, he knows that Billick and Cavanaugh are standing a couple of feet behind him, seething. Unlike veteran starters before him, Redman is getting taught hands-on.

But Redman's growth can be judged on the reprimands becoming shorter. There are times when Redman will turn around with the answer before the coaches spit out the question.

"The good thing is when he makes a mistake, he knows immediately what it is," Billick said. "That's a good sign compared to other quarterbacks I've had who'll remain nameless."

Redman doesn't take any chances either.

In Friday's scrimmage, he twice called timeout before the 25-second play clock expired. When Billick told his quarterback they weren't using the clock, Redman shook his head and said, "I'm not getting chewed out again."

Last year, Redman was called for delay of game in the last preseason game and was berated by Billick. Redman hasn't forgotten.

"Right there, it showed me he's learning from his mistakes," Billick said.

What QB controversy?

Tough love is limited to the coaching staff.

Blake, an 11-year veteran, has made it known that he isn't here to tutor Redman. And the local talk shows have already begun predicting when Blake will jump into the starting role.

"I feel like if I come out and compete, I make him better," Blake said. "He'll be a better man for it."

Redman, though, has shown maturity in this situation.

Although Blake has wowed fans with his daily 30- and 40-yard high-arcing tosses, Redman refuses to jump out of character. He sticks with his accuracy, throwing the intermediate passes and only fires deep when the opportunity is there.

Redman remains composed because he doesn't think of the situation as competition. Instead of looking over his shoulder, Redman is actually rooting for Blake.

"I pull for the other guys," said Redman, who hasn't had to compete with another quarterback since his freshman year at Louisville.

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