For starters, why is Redman out of the mix?

March 02, 2003|By MIKE PRESTON

IT SEEMS LIKE anybody can be the starting quarterback of the Ravens except the guy who opened the 2002 season as the starter. Jeff Blake has the inside track, even though his contract demand of $3 million in incentives is an absolute joke. Kordell Stewart has entered his name, but he is the No. 2 choice behind Blake.

There even has been speculation that the Ravens will make New Orleans Saints backup Jake Delhomme the starter if they can't sign Blake or Stewart. Jake Delhomme?

Anybody, it seems, but Chris Redman.

What happened?

Only three years ago, the Ravens' draft room was overjoyed when Redman "fell" to them in the third round. Only seven months ago, he was being hailed as this city's modern-day Johnny Unitas. He was getting as much air time as big, old Tony Siragusa and those tired, old car commercials. Now, the Ravens won't even allow him to challenge for the starting job.

How has the future come and gone so quickly?

"No one knows that offense better than me," Redman said Friday morning as he prepared to work out at an indoor facility near his alma mater, the University of Louisville. "This is my fourth year in the same offense with the same offensive coordinator. I feel like I'm definitely in the mix."

But how about those subtle slaps in the face?

"That's not my decision," Redman said. "I'm going there to compete and do the best I can do. Whoever they bring in, it doesn't faze me. Hopefully, I'll get the chance to prove myself again and succeed on the field."

You have to admire Redman's perseverance.

The Ravens have basically written him off as a starter. Their two-year grooming process of Redman lasted six games, long enough for a back injury to force him out of the final 10 games last season. Coach Brian Billick has basically said, "No mas."

Why else would Billick fly to Florida and meet with Blake, whom the Ravens are now treating as if he were Dan Marino? Why else would Blake demand $3 million more than the Ravens have offered per season?

Billick never fully endorsed Redman. He gave his blessings to Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer. He was intrigued by Elvis Grbac. Billick even gushed over that fake of a quarterback named Stoney Case.

But never Redman.

Maybe it's a veteran thing.

Redman says he was on the verge of a breakthrough last year.

"The key was just getting the experience, being out there with the live bullets," Redman said. "It had been two years since I played in a full, live game. When you're not playing, you lose your edge. Standing on the sidelines, the game looks very fast. Once I got in and started playing, it wasn't as fast anymore.

"I know I didn't play any great games. It seemed like every week they were throwing a new defense at me. But I was just starting to become comfortable with the speed of the game, and my reads. I thought I was on the verge of breaking out."

Instead, Redman went to the bench with a disc bulging into a nerve, causing numbness in his leg and foot. Five weeks ago, he had back surgery. Yesterday, he began throwing while dropping back, as opposed to previous workouts in which he threw from a standstill.

He says the chances of the injury recurring are extremely slim.

"Actually, I suffered the injury in the weight room in college when I was doing a one-rep max squat with a lot of weight," Redman said. "I felt the strain, and there was pretty significant back pain. But it felt better as the season went on. This is the first time in about 10 years that I will be playing without that pain in my back. I'm excited about that."

Redman says he became a better player and person fighting through the injury.

"Obviously, I was very frustrated with the way the season turned out," he said. `There was that weird time at the end of the year when I didn't know if I was going to get the surgery, or if I was going to play again, and then I became the backup. But you become a stronger person once you work through adversity."

The Ravens should open up the competition and allow Redman a chance to compete against Blake, Stewart or whomever. Neither player did much to distance himself last season. Blake was 4-6 as the starter, completing 165 of 295 passes for 2,084 yards, with 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Redman was 3-3 as a starter, completing 97 of 182 passes for 1,034 yards, with seven touchdowns and three interceptions.

Blake had a quarterback rating of 77.3. Redman was at 76.1. Both played behind a subpar offensive line. Both played with an offense that lacked a legitimate No. 1 receiver. Blake has the stronger arm, but a quarterback competition and some humility might do the surly veteran a little good.

But coaches like to get their No. 1 quarterbacks as many repetitions as possible before the opening of the season. The search is on. Blake. Stewart. The milkman. The mailman. You. Me.

Anybody, it seems, but Chris Redman.

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