Redman-led Ravens ready to begin again

6th starting QB in 4 years and cast of newcomers set for preseason opener

August 09, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Chris Redman wants to make a strong first impression.

The Ravens' 43 rookies need to make lasting ones.

New beginnings - and a crowd of new faces - mark the start of the Ravens' preseason tonight. In an 8 o'clock kickoff against the Detroit Lions, it will be time to meet the NFL's youngest team and greet another new starting quarterback.

The spotlight at Ravens Stadium falls on Redman, the Ravens' sixth starting quarterback in four years, who leads a revamped team that few know and few expect to succeed.

"We feel like the talent is here," said Redman, a third-round pick in the 2000 draft and the Ravens' No. 3 quarterback for the past two years.

"It's just a matter of getting everybody together and how quickly we can come together as a team. I think we're going to surprise people because we're getting pretty close."

No one understands the importance of first steps more than Redman.

In last year's preseason opener, Redman was intercepted on his first pass by 6-foot-6, 305-pound Jets lineman Shane Burton, tripped over his offensive lineman, fumbled and sustained a delay-of-game penalty on fourth down. That showing began a downward spiral that eventually dropped him from second to third string.

"I definitely want to get out to a good start," Redman said. "This is what I've been waiting for. This is the kind of test to see how good you are. I'm looking forward to that challenge."

Redman, who has three regular-season passes on his resume, will receive a lot of exposure in the preseason. In tonight's game, he is scheduled to play 25 to 30 snaps, which could mean working the entire first half.

It's hard to draw any conclusions so far on Redman. He has seemed ordinary in training camp yet looked extremely sharp in last week's intrasquad scrimmage. His teammates, though, have always remained supportive.

"I know he's going to do good," receiver Travis Taylor said. "I know the kind of leadership skills he has, and I know how he takes game situations."

Rather than evaluating his statistics, the Ravens will take a hard look at Redman's on-field presence.

"Regardless of the outcome - and certainly you want it to be good - I want to see how he does handling the team, the tempo of it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Physically, you want to see him make the throws. So, it's important. But it's not like his career or the season hinges on it."

After Redman, Billick will call on veteran backup Jeff Blake to run the offense for most of the second half. Wes Pate, the team's seventh-round pick, could see a series late.

Blake, who has thrown for 17,199 yards and 106 touchdowns, doesn't consider the preseason as his time to audition for the starting job.

"I think for what I've done in my career ... I shouldn't have to go out and be that impressive in the preseason," Blake said. "Chris has been here for three years and he knows the offense better than I do. I need the reps so I can get acquainted with the offense in a game-live situation."

Tonight's game will help the Ravens get acquainted with their running game.

With their top two backs - Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor - held out for precautionary measures, the team will rely on the unknown trio of Tellis Redmon, Dameon Hunter and Derek Homer.

Redmon will play most of the first half and try to solidify himself as the team's third running back. He had 5 yards on five carries in the scrimmage.

"I want to rectify a lot," Redmon said. "Coming out of that last scrimmage, I didn't do as well as I wanted to do. I think it's going to motivate me to come out strong."

Another rookie of note, free safety Ed Reed, won't be seeing as much time. The first-round pick who held out nine days will play mostly on special teams.

"I'm just going to get my mental reps on defense and get ready for next week," said Reed, who will likely start by the regular season.

The other newcomers don't have such luxuries.

The jostling for roster spots begin tonight as 48 players vie for the last 20 openings. These numerous battles could bring more excitement to the preseason than previous seasons, when the Ravens basically had their roster set before coming to camp.

"Sometimes it's real easy for us to dismiss preseason games as not really big, competitive or meaning anything. But I think it's the other way around," Billick said. "You have guys fighting for their jobs, fighting for their lives here. You talk about raw, real competition, you're talking about that first preseason game."

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