Broncos could be down to QB No. 4

3rd-stringer Kanell's start uncertain because of flu

Ravens could see Jackson

October 25, 2003|By Patrick Saunders | Patrick Saunders,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

DENVER - The Denver Broncos' quarterback saga took a turn for the weird yesterday.

Danny Kanell, the journeyman scheduled to start against the Ravens tomorrow, missed practice yesterday because of the flu. He is listed as probable, but coach Mike Shanahan said he's not sure if Kanell will be able to play.

"This morning he was vomiting; he's got the flu right now," Shanahan said. "He's a little bit dehydrated. We gave him some IVs, and hopefully he'll be all right by game time."

If Kanell can't play, the ball will be in the hands of Jarious Jackson, who was cut by the Broncos at the end of training camp. Jackson didn't re-sign with the team until Wednesday. Wide receiver Rod Smith is the ultra-emergency quarterback.

If Kanell, 29, can't play, it will be a huge blow to plans to jump-start his stalled career.

It's been nearly three years since his last NFL start, and more than seven years since the New York Giants drafted him in the fourth round out of Florida State. He didn't play in the NFL in either 2001 or 2002.

"There were definitely days and weeks that went by where I wondered if I was ever going to play again," Kanell said earlier this week. "It was frustrating, sitting at home in Florida watching games on TV and watching players I felt I could play just as well as, if not better, but I just wasn't getting a chance. People would always come up to me and be like, `Why aren't you playing somewhere?' It was frustrating to have to answer those people."

Now the big question is whether Kanell can steer Denver to victory. He was forced into a starting role because of injuries to Jake Plummer (broken right foot) and Steve Beuerlein, who was placed on injured reserve this week after breaking his right pinkie in Denver's 28-20 loss at Minnesota on Sunday.

Kanell replaced Beuerlein in the third quarter and completed 12 of 18 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.

It was a nice performance, but it didn't carry the pressure of starting. And there are a lot of people predicting a bumpy ride for Kanell when he goes up against linebacker Ray Lewis and the rest of the Ravens' defense. Yet Kanell doesn't seem overwhelmed.

In his second season, he led the Giants to the 1997 NFC East title, but Minnesota eliminated the Giants, 23-22, in the wild-card round. He started 10 games in 1998 before Kent Graham replaced him. He then signed with Atlanta as a free agent in 1999 and played through the 2000 season. His last start came on Nov. 12, 2000, in a 13-10 loss to Detroit. It was not pretty. Kanell completed 14 of 34 passes for just 126 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

In 2001, Kanell had workouts with Indianapolis and the New York Jets, but went unsigned. So Kanell, who was a 19th-round draft choice of the Milwaukee Brewers in the summer of 1992, shoved football into the closet and played minor league baseball for the Newark Bears. He replaced Jose Canseco and made $1,200 a month.

Last year, Dallas and Washington took a look at Kanell, but he got no offers. So he honed his skills playing in the Arena Football League for the New York Dragons.

Finally, this summer he got invited to Broncos training camp, only to get released. It wasn't until Plummer hurt his shoulder in Week 2 that coach Mike Shanahan asked Kanell to come back.

Kanell is aware that the Ravens are likely to approach him as if he were a rookie.

"If I was their defensive coordinator, I'd come after me," Kanell said. "Anytime you see a new guy in there, or somebody that hasn't been in the system, you know they're going to throw a lot of junk at you. They're probably going to throw the whole house."

While at the University of Miami, Lewis played against Kanell.

"With Danny Kanell, you really don't know what you're going to get," Lewis said. "So I think the thing you have to do is really come in and prepare for what the Broncos do and not what the quarterback does. And I'm promising, and guessing at the same time, that [running back] Clinton Portis is going to touch the ball at least 25-30 times this week, just because of the quarterback situation."

Shanahan is putting a positive spin on the quarterback situation.

"He's come in here and he's done everything we've asked him to do," Shanahan said. "He's a veteran quarterback, very bright, very mature. I think he'll do a great job for us. I feel very good about our quarterback situation."

At least until Kanell got sick.

Kanell hasn't had time to get settled in Denver. His apartment doesn't even have a TV. But that's OK, because he has needed extra time to study Shanahan's complex playbook.

But Kanell also needed time to chill out earlier this week.

"Basically, I just hung out and went to the movies and tried to relax a little bit and get away from it all and try not to think about the pressure situation," Kanell said.

Kanell ended up seeing the Bill Murray movie, Lost in Translation.

"I was hoping for something a little lighter, but it ended up being too serious for me," Kanell said with a big grin. "It was a dark comedy. I needed a slapstick comedy."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Denver Broncos (5-2) vs. Ravens (3-3)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Tomorrow, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 1 1/2

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