Seattle's Dilfer returns to town

Ex-Ravens quarterback says he has `nothing but wonderful memories'

November 21, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Thirty-four months after helping the Ravens win the Super Bowl, Trent Dilfer finally will be welcomed back to Baltimore.

Sunday's game between the Ravens and the Seattle Seahawks marks the sentimental return of Dilfer to M&T Bank Stadium, where the sellout crowd is expected to shower the Seahawks backup quarterback with cheers and debate what might have been.

After winning the franchise's first championship, the Ravens made history again by choosing to sign Elvis Grbac over Dilfer. The decision made Dilfer the first quarterback to win the Super Bowl and lose his job before the next season.

Despite his quick roller-coaster stint with the Ravens, Dilfer will come back with a smile.

"I have nothing but wonderful memories of my time there," Dilfer said to The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash. "I deeply, deeply respect 90 percent of that organization, and I don't want to cheapen that aspect of it for the 10 percent that I think is ridiculous."

Dilfer, who has thrown three passes for the Seahawks this season, declined to speak to Baltimore reporters this week.

He did, however, tell those in Seattle that the reunion will be less emotional since only 13 players remain from the Super Bowl team.

"We're a couple years removed," said Dilfer, who won his last 11 starts for the Ravens, "which makes it maybe more tolerable for me."

The Ravens' front office has never second-guessed its decision.

Although they fell short of repeating, the Ravens are the last Super Bowl champion to reach the playoffs the next year. Compared to Dilfer's 2000 season, Grbac averaged more yards per game but had a lower completion percentage and a higher interception rate.

While the Ravens went with the Pro Bowl quarterback, Dilfer settled for a backup role with Seattle for the 2001 season after no team offered him a starting job.

"The biggest issues of the 2001 season was [running back] Jamal Lewis and [offensive tackle] Leon Searcy getting hurt," general manager Ozzie Newsome said.

Coach Brian Billick said a year ago that the Ravens wouldn't have made the playoffs with Dilfer that season.

When asked about Dilfer's homecoming, Billick said, "It's great to have Trent back. I'm sure our fans will be appreciative, much like Shannon [Sharpe] coming back. It will be good to see Trent but not unlike other players who have come back."

It'll seem like old times for Dilfer since his return coincides with a current six-quarter touchdown drought by the Ravens, who still rely on the same formula of a dominant defense and a strong running game.

"The myth is that they are playing the type of football that we played when we won the Super Bowl," Dilfer said. "People can say whatever they want, but I have the ball in my hand and I was game-planning. That is not what we did."

In 11 games with the Ravens in 2000, Dilfer averaged 6.6 yards per pass attempt with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His quarterback rating was 76.6.

In 10 games this season, Ravens quarterbacks Kyle Boller, Chris Redman and Anthony Wright have averaged 5.4 yards an attempt with seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Their combined passer rating (56.4) ranks second to last in the league.

"We were a balanced offense," Dilfer said. "We created a lot of big plays ... and in crunch time we featured our best players, which were Shannon Sharpe and Jamal Lewis and even Priest Holmes to a certain extent.

"We weren't dumb. ... We didn't have to get up 14 [points]. We had to get up 10, and we were never going to lose. We could have been still playing today, against anybody ever, and if we got up 10, we're not going to lose."

Unlike his rough divorce from the Ravens, this past offseason was a bigger ordeal for Dilfer. His 5-year-old son, Trevin, died April 27 in a California hospital after a 40-day battle with heart disease.

On Sunday, his old Ravens family will be there for him.

The four offensive players who started along side Dilfer in the Super Bowl - center Mike Flynn, left tackle Jonathan Ogden, left guard Edwin Mulitalo and running back Jamal Lewis - will welcome him back with open arms.

"He means a lot to me, and obviously, it was sad to see him go," said Flynn, who used to sit beside Dilfer on road trips. "When he played, I'll always remember the emotion he brought to the field. We all took a little part of that and used it to play well."

Said Ogden: "He'll always be my boy. We have a Super Bowl together. It'll be good to see him, but hopefully he won't get in. He tends to do some good things when he gets into games."

Whether the Ravens were better with or without Dilfer remains open for argument.

"The people that matter to me know that we had a special gig there, and that it was kind of taken away from us," Dilfer said. "I've dealt with it and moved on, but I'll bet you that to a certain degree, there are people still dealing with it."

NOTES: Boller (leg) and tight end John Jones (leg) are the only players who did not practice. Receivers Marcus Robinson (chest), Frank Sanders (ankle) and defensive end Tony Weaver (neck) - all of whom are questionable - worked with the team.

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks (7-3) vs. Ravens (5-5)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 3

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