Ravens' Redman expects challenge

QB vows to compete in bid to beat unknown foe for team's starting job

Pro Football

March 18, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' quarterback school opened yesterday, with Chris Redman at the head of the class. But he understands the true test will begin in training camp.

As he analyzes six hours of film each day this week, Redman realizes that he is the Ravens' quarterback of the moment but not necessarily the future.

It was just 12 days ago when he was penciled in to be the backup to Jeff Blake and basically written off as a starter. Now, only after talks broke off with Blake, Redman has been given a chance to regain his starting job in an open competition in training camp against a quarterback to be named.

His competition could come from the draft, where the Ravens have talked to teams about trading up, or from the likes of veterans Brian Griese, Jim Miller or Akili Smith.

To Redman, nothing has been handed to him except an opportunity.

"This is not all said and done," Redman said. "There's still a lot of possibilities that could happen. I'm just going with a one-track mind that I have to compete no matter what. Until that first game, I'll keep competing."

While his competition remains undecided, the other uncertainty is Redman's health.

Last year, Redman was 3-3 as a first-year starter, throwing for seven touchdowns and three interceptions before a bulging disc ended his season at the end of October. Two months removed from back surgery, Redman has begun to run and throw again. He said he will be fully recovered by the first minicamp in May.

The organization, though, wants to see proof this offseason.

"We are optimistic that the surgery can only enhance him physically," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "But we can't play doctor. We need to know that he can be healthy and when he takes that hit, he's not going to be out again for a year."

According to team trainer Bill Tessendorf, it's unlikely that a direct hit to the back will reinjure the disc. The injury is more likely to recur if he gets spun to the ground awkwardly.

"I'm not really too worried about that first big hit," Redman said. "I hope to give [it]."

Redman and the Ravens should have a better understanding about their futures by the end of this season. A third-round draft pick in 2000, Redman will be an unrestricted free agent next year.

If he is healthy and productive, the Ravens can see him perhaps ending their annual quarterback shuffle.

"No question, he could still be in the plans," Newsome said. "But that doesn't preclude taking someone in the draft."

The Ravens have explored both trading up and down in the draft April 26-27, and are expected to select either a quarterback, defensive lineman or offensive lineman in the first round. They have at least four quarterbacks - presumably Southern California's Carson Palmer, Marshall's Byron Leftwich, California's Kyle Boller and Florida's Rex Grossman - rated among their top 70 prospects.

"We will select the best player available and don't have any control who is going to be at the 10th and 42nd picks," Newsome said. "We do like several quarterbacks in the draft this year."

Whether it's Redman or a drafted rookie, the Ravens want to stabilize the quarterback position. In coach Brian Billick's four seasons, there have been eight starting quarterbacks.

"If people want to blame me for it, that's fine," Billick said. "But for whatever reason - even in Minnesota and the success we had there - we just had a litany of quarterbacks. When I look at the years Mike Holmgren had with Brett Favre and Mike Shanahan with John Elway, I do so with a great deal of envy and jealousy."

If Redman wins the competition in camp - which Billick said could last from three days to the last preseason game - he would be the first quarterback to start consecutive season openers for the Ravens since Vinny Testaverde in 1996-97.

"[This season] is big for him and it's big for us," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "It does no good if the one guy in five years to start consecutive years doesn't play well. We really need not only continuity but a guy coming back and doing better. There's no question that his progress got cut short last year. It's going to be important now to figure out where he's going to be able to pick up."

The first step of that process starts this week during quarterback school. Redman, along with backup Anthony Wright, meet with Cavanaugh and quarterbacks coach David Shaw to break down coverages, blitzes and their own personnel.

"[Redman] handles things very well emotionally," Cavanaugh said. "He's very tough mentally. Physically, other than the back, he took some hits and got back up. That part of it I was impressed with. I really think what is holding him back is how much he knows vs. how much he needs to know."

At this point, Redman knows his situation. The starting job might not be his to lose, but it's certainly his job to win.

"I'm going to go into the season knowing that I'm going to have to play my best to be on the field," Redman said. "I intend to do that."

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