Being a rookie is no excuse for Jags' maturing Leftwich

After Ravens' hit, QB vows to correct sacks, fumbles

Ravens 24, Jaguars 17

Nfl Week 9

November 03, 2003|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Standing amid a cluster of reporters in the locker room after yesterday's 24-17 loss to the Ravens, the Jacksonville Jaguars' Byron Leftwich answered tough questions like a veteran.

Were you holding the ball too low when you twice lost fumbles? What were you thinking when you threw the game-ending interception into a crowd with your team in position to win or tie the game? With all of the mistakes you made, how do you put into perspective that you're a rookie quarterback?

"I still don't look at it like I'm a rookie quarterback," said Leftwich, who was taken seventh overall in the draft. "I think when you allow yourself to think, `Oh, I'm a rookie quarterback, I can make this mistake, I can make that mistake,' you don't get any better as a player."

In going 22-for-34 for 208 yards and a touchdown, Leftwich had slightly better numbers than the winning rookie, Kyle Boller (10-for-23, 156 yards, one touchdown). But he also was sacked four times and fumbled twice in critical situations.

Perhaps the main difference is that Leftwich faced the Ravens' defense, whose leader, Ray Lewis, promised to "get into" the rookie's head.

In the second quarter, Leftwich had completed four passes for 26 yards in a 10-play drive that reached the Ravens' 40-yard line when Terrell Suggs sacked him, causing a fumble the Jaguars recovered. Peter Boulware later hammered Leftwich while the quarterback got off a weak, incomplete pass.

"What you've got to do is get yourself to understand that it's not something supernatural that's happening," Leftwich said. "It's just football."

Leftwich faced first-and-10 at his 30-yard line when Tony Weaver sacked him and recovered the fumble. Boulware also sacked Leftwich, causing a fumble that was recovered by the Ravens' Tom Knight.

"I've got to go back and watch the film and see if I was holding the ball too low," Leftwich said. "If so, I'll correct it."

Leftwich persevered, spreading six passes to five different receivers in a 12-play, 73-yard drive that ended with his 5-yard touchdown pass to David Allen. It was 24-17 with 3:11 to play.

"[Byron's] a guy that comes in Monday, Tuesday, watches films on days off, makes corrections," said Jaguars running back Fred Taylor. "You mark my words: He's going to be a great one - up there with the Joe Montanas, the Steve Youngs and those guys."

Starting from his 20 with 1:49 to play, Leftwich began to show the poise and promise of which Taylor spoke. In the span of 12 seconds, he completed passes of 23 and 11 yards to Jimmy Smith and Allen. He later found Troy Edwards for a 17-yarder that put Jacksonville at Baltimore's 29.

But facing third-and-12 at the Ravens' 31 with 68 seconds left, Leftwich forced a pass to Cortez Hankton amid four defenders that Ray Lewis intercepted at the Ravens' 9-yard line with 44 seconds left.

"I was in between on what I was trying to do: Should I throw the ball out of bounds or should I try to get it into one of my guys?" Leftwich said. "It's one of those things I wish I could have had back."

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