Boller likely out for season

Torn muscle above knee shelves rookie, leaves Ravens in QB quandary

Redman start isn't certainty

Wright lobbies for chance

ex-Terp O'Donnell, Lucas eyed as veteran backup

Ravens

November 11, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Much like the Ravens' season right now, their quarterback situation is up in the air.

Rookie starter Kyle Boller probably will miss the rest of the season after injuring his left leg in Sunday night's 33-22 loss to the St. Louis Rams.

The Ravens have yet to formally announce Boller's replacement and have been discussing whether to name Chris Redman or Anthony Wright the starter against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Boller, the 19th overall pick in the draft, tore his quadriceps - a muscle just above the knee - late in the second quarter and missed the entire second half.

It will be determined today whether surgery could speed his recovery, but the best-case scenario still has him sidelined for five to six weeks. Ravens coach Brian Billick said Boller could be placed on injured reserve as soon as today, which would officially finish his season.

Boller, 22, was trying to become the first rookie quarterback to start an entire season for a division winner since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Leaving on crutches yesterday, he declined to talk to reporters.

Now, as the Ravens hit the toughest part of their schedule, they must switch gears at quarterback. At 5-4, the Ravens hold a one-game lead over the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North.

"This is the adversity that this team's going to face right now," Billick said. "Our [playoff] expectations of ourselves have not changed necessarily because of this adversity. It can't. This team has a lot of experience at that, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it."

Although the loss of Boller doesn't carry the same weight as the season-ending injuries to Jamal Lewis in 2001 and Ray Lewis last season, it's a significant setback at the game's most important position.

Boller's quarterback rating of 62.1 is worst among AFC starters, but it belies the fact that he was embraced by teammates for his toughness. Meanwhile, Redman has flopped in two relief appearances (a quarterback rating of 26) and Wright has yet to take a regular-season snap in 14 months with the Ravens.

When asked if Redman would start at Miami, Billick said, "We've got to evaluate where we're at, what we're going to do, what came out of [Sunday] and what we need to do to beat the Dolphins. We have to continue to identify who and what we are and the best athletes at any position to do that. But Chris is the backup right now. So I would make that assumption right now."

Redman could have made the decision a no-brainer with a solid effort Sunday. Instead, he went 7-for-12 for 58 yards, throwing two interceptions and fumbling twice.

He lacked any feel of the offense for a quarterback who has been in the same system for four years. And he didn't resemble the quarterback who won three of his last four starts last season before a back injury ended his season in October.

"I haven't lost my confidence," Redman said. "I can go out there and play. I've been playing all my life. I'm not going to quit."

There has been increasing buzz about Wright, a five-year veteran and former Dallas Cowboys starter. If Wright is not named the starter, it's assumed Redman would be on a short leash and could be pulled if he doesn't increase his production.

"Everything I am going to do this week is going to be intensified," Wright said. "This is a chance of a lifetime. I'm definitely going to take advantage of it. I've been crying and griping about trying to get a chance ever since I left Dallas. I think this organization will give me that real chance. If I get in, it's going to be hard to get me out."

Team officials also confirmed they have begun preliminary calls to sign a veteran third-string quarterback.

The presumed list includes Neil O'Donnell and Ray Lucas. But the Ravens are seeking a veteran for insurance and not to compete for the starting job.

"What we are going to try to do is get someone that we think fits best as what we're doing offensively right now," general manager Ozzie Newsome said.

Newsome said Boller's injury shouldn't cause the Ravens' season to pull up lame. In nine starts, Boller completed 52 percent of his passes for 1,250 yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions as the Ravens regularly ranked last in the league in passing.

"Kyle was getting better but we never wanted to put our offensive production in Kyle's hands," Newsome said. "Jamal [Lewis] is going to continue to carry the ball 25 to 30 times. What we're looking for is to get someone who can complete 10 to 15 passes and make some plays."

The injury occurred in the last five minutes of the second quarter, although it's unknown whether it happened when Boller banged knees with fullback Alan Ricard or upon being pulled down on the sideline.

A hobbling Boller finished out the half but felt the leg stiffen during halftime. Still, he went into his meeting with offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh rather than seeing the doctors.

When the Ravens' medical staff forced him to take a balance test, he couldn't put any weight on the left leg.

"He almost had to be physically restrained from going back out," said media relations manager Chad Steele, who was in the locker room. "He refused to accept that he wasn't going to play."

A magnetic resonance imaging test yesterday revealed a deep tear just above the knee.

"There's a couple of times I really couldn't step into my throws at all," Boller said after the game. "My leg was hurting bad."

It's up to the Ravens to shake off the sting and continue their march into the playoffs.

"We're disappointed as an organization, disappointed as a team, and disappointed for the young man," Billick said. "I'll lose some sleep over it and cry in my beer over it in the offseason when I have time to dwell on it. Now, we have the task at hand of moving on."

Sun staff writer Brent Jones contributed to this article.

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens (5-4) vs. Miami Dolphins (5-4)

Site: Pro Player Stadium, Miami

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line: Off the board

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