Ravens hand off to Wright

Billick names 3rd-stringer starting QB against Miami, replacing injured Boller

Wright: `It's a great opportunity'

Players initially shocked over decision to go with Wright over No. 2 Redman

November 13, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

He's had to run like Michael Vick. He's had to throw like Peyton Manning.

Finally, after 14 months with the Ravens, Anthony Wright can be Anthony Wright.

The Ravens officially announced Wright would start Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, elevating him from the scout team to the first team to replace injured starter Kyle Boller.

Wright becomes the 10th and most unlikely starter in 4 1/2 seasons under coach Brian Billick, who has never promoted a quarterback from third string to No. 1. Wright's last start - along with his last regular-season snap - was with the Dallas Cowboys in October 2001.

"It's a great opportunity," said Wright, who could start the next four games while Boller works his way back from a torn quadriceps muscle. "I understand the pressure that comes with being a starter of a football team and I'm ready to deal with it. I think the biggest thing for me this weekend is to play under control, to play within my game and not do too much."

The decision to leapfrog Wright over Chris Redman was based on the Ravens' offensive identity. With a scheme designed around the league's leading rusher, Jamal Lewis, the Ravens' passing game needs to keep defenses honest.

For most of the game, defenses will stack the line with eight-man fronts, content to play receivers one-on-one and daring the Ravens to beat them deep. To counter that, the Ravens are going with Wright because of his arm strength and athleticism.

He has the potential to produce big plays with tight-spiraled throws downfield. He also has the mobility to fake the run one way - getting the defense flowing to Lewis - and bootleg the other direction for a high-percentage intermediate throw to a tight end.

"That's a tough situation for Chris, but the reason we're going with Anthony Wright is that right now Anthony's physical attributes fit better with what we're doing," Billick said. "That's not Chris' fault; it's just a matter of Anthony's athleticism. That's the primary thing. He fits more with what we do in both our running and passing game."

In his eight-game career, Wright has completed 46 percent of his throws for 766 yards, with five touchdowns and eight interceptions. The knock on him has been erratic throwing and lack of game experience.

Despite not playing in a regular-season game in 25 months, Wright has not shown a lack of confidence.

Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh saw that first-hand Tuesday when they told Wright he would be starting.

"He had the look of, `It's about time,' " Cavanaugh said. "It wasn't shock. It was like, `I'm happy you guys finally figured it out.'"

The players, however, admitted to being shocked by the move. Most anticipated Redman would start this week and were astounded when news of Wright's promotion - newly signed quarterback Ray Lucas accidentally told reporters of the move Tuesday - leaked out.

Some players said they heard about the change from television and others read about it in the newspaper before Billick made the official announcement at yesterday's team meeting.

"I had no clue what was going on," said tight end Todd Heap, who heard it Tuesday from his wife, who was watching the news. "I'm not going to lie, it caught me off guard."

The Ravens seemed more at ease with the decision in the locker room yesterday.

"There's a method to Coach's madness," running back Jamal Lewis said. "He knows what he is doing. I never question Coach Billick and his decisions."

By hearing about the decision to start Wright on Tuesday, the Dolphins were able to gain an extra day to dig up some old film on the five-year veteran. The Miami defense is formidable enough with eight former Pro Bowl players.

"I am glad that we know who is starting at quarterback early enough in the week," Miami coach Dave Wannstedt said. "It gives us a chance to adjust game plan-wise to what he will do best."

Billick said he was going to announce the decision yesterday nevertheless.

"There's a certain competitive advantage to that to a degree," Billick said. "But this team needs a definition."

The definition of Wright's career has been being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

He never had a chance in his one-year stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1999. Two years later in Dallas, he reportedly outplayed Quincy Carter and was even publicly backed by Emmitt Smith, but he sat for most of the season because the Cowboys had invested so much money in Carter.

Now, after watching Carter rejuvenate his career under coach Bill Parcells, Wright is ready to do another scout-team impersonation.

"It's a lot of inspiration," Wright said. "It shows the fact that with proper coaching and proper work, you can develop into one of those types of quarterbacks. I understand the situation that I'm in. I understand what the coaches expect of me. Therefore, I think I can fit into that same mold."

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