Wright keeps his grip on wheel

Recent shaky showings fail to affect his status as Ravens' starting QB

December 24, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The day before he officially became the Ravens' starting quarterback, Anthony Wright made a prediction that has come to pass.

Wright, who was third-string at the time, said if he was inserted for the then-injured Kyle Boller, it would be hard to get him out.

Six games later, he's been proven right as the Ravens have stayed committed to him heading into Sunday night's regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers despite a couple of less-than-stellar showings recently.

"Of course I envisioned this," said Wright, who is 4-2 as a starter. "I never stopped having the vision of taking this team to the promised land, which is in Houston [site of the Super Bowl]."

How he has attempted to take the Ravens there in the past few weeks has not been a thing of beauty. He has failed to reach 200 yards passing in each of the team's four previous games, while also throwing as many touchdown passes (five) as interceptions and completing 48.3 percent of his throws.

What Wright has done, to varying degrees, is manage the game the way the Ravens want it managed, meaning he's taken a backseat to running back Jamal Lewis.

After Lewis rushed for 205 yards in Sunday's 35-0 win over the Cleveland Browns, Wright sat at his locker and did less than a handful of interviews. He threw just one bad pass (a third-down interception in the third quarter on a ball intended for Travis Taylor), but finished with just 90 passing yards, completing 10 of 18 throws. He was also sacked three times.

In essence, Wright, despite playing the game's highest-profile position, has been removed from the spotlight, and he is fine with that.

"Jamal had a big game, and you can only respect the fact that people want to have interviews with him," Wright said.

"After I had the big game at Seattle, people came. It's only natural. It's ego, and my ego is not a problem. I don't have a problem with people not interviewing me after the game."

In fact, the low-key Wright said he prefers it that way. But as the Ravens look to move into the playoffs, his presence will have to increase in both games and away from the field. He will also have to find a cure for those one to two fumbles a game (seven total, second highest on the team).

His teammates do not foresee a problem.

"Anthony has stayed himself, personality-wise," receiver Frank Sanders said. "As the No. 1 quarterback, he assumed that role like he knew it would be his coming into camp. One thing that I can see a difference is that it's stressful. Being the No. 1 quarterback in this system, and Coach [Brian] Billick putting pressure on the quarterbacks to be the best, you can see it's stressful.

"But as the quarterback, he took the pressure on his shoulders to say `ride with me'. And that's one of the things I've been impressed with."

Said quarterbacks/receivers coach David Shaw: "He started with confidence, but as we've won some games and he's played a little bit better, his confidence has continued to grow. His knowledge, not just of our offense, but of what defenses are doing against us, which is really key, has started to grow, too."

Now comes Wright's chance to do what he has talked about since the moment he took over at quarterback - take the Ravens to the playoffs.

Wright bristled at the notion that this is the most important game of his five-year career, implying the refrain sounds familiar to ones before games against the Browns and Cincinnati Bengals. "Every game is a big game. How many times am I'm going to hear this?" he asked.

Probably from now until the end of the season, which, if Wright is to be believed, could be a while. The pressure is on for him to get just enough out of the league's worst-ranked passing game to be successful.

He will likely have to do better than just his one completion of more than 15 yards against the Browns.

"I like playing with pressure because it forces me to intensify my focus," Wright said. "I've always been that way. Whether it's been a pressure situation, coach in my ear or player in my ear, that drives me. I love it."

NOTE: Owner Art Modell's induction into the Ravens' Ring of Honor will take place during the first seven minutes of halftime, and the team is encouraging fans to remain seated for the ceremony.

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens (9-6) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-9)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Sunday, 8:30 p.m.

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

Line: Ravens by 7 1/2

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