Boller and Heap make connection on and off field

Pro Football

August 09, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Kyle Boller and Todd Heap share the same dreams, and like one afternoon last week, the same mind.

Relaxing in their hotel room between practices, the most inseparable pair at Ravens training camp came across old highlights of the Denver Broncos on television and quietly took notice of another quarterback-tight end combination.

They watched intently what John Elway and Shannon Sharpe were saying on the sideline, what their reactions were on certain plays and what their expressions were when they won a couple of Super Bowls.

"I didn't have to ask Kyle, but I know he was thinking the same thing I was," said Heap, a Pro Bowl tight end. "We need to be like that. We need to do some of those same things."

If familiarity breeds confidence, Boller and Heap could be in for a special season.

They room together at camp. They eat together. They watch movies together. They play video games together.

Their teammates joke about them even sharing the same clothes.

"It's easy to find them now," center Mike Flynn said. "If I need one, I just look for the other."

Boller and Heap were friends last year, but they have grown closer this season. They're both laid-back, 20-something guys from the West Coast who enjoy similar hobbies along with an obsession for football.

So even if these self-described "buds" are hitting a few balls on the golf course, they never veer too far from the football field. They talk about correcting recent mistakes, breaking off certain routes and adjusting to different defenses.

"We need to get to the point where he knows what move I'm going to make before I make it," said Heap, who has caught passes from four starting quarterbacks in his two Pro Bowl seasons. "That's when you start becoming a great offense."

Heap instantly became the favorite target in Boller's injury-shortened rookie season.

In nine starts with Boller, Heap caught 31 passes for 417 yards and two touchdowns. In seven starts without him, he made 26 receptions for 276 yards and one touchdown.

When Boller needed a big play, he usually looked Heap's way. Half of Boller's 18 passes covering at least 20 yards went to Heap.

"He's a playmaker and those are the guys you want to be surrounded by," Boller said. "When I'm in doubt about a ball, he's the guy I can throw it up to and, wherever he is, he's going to come down with it."

There are times when this trusty connection seems more like the odd couple.

Boller has recently taken a liking to pop-punk's Ashlee Simpson while Heap prefers the more wholesome charm of Jessica Simpson. Heap is a Mormon who doesn't even drink much soda while Boller has dated a Hollywood actress.

"I have a wife and a daughter," Heap said. "He is still looking for his perfect 5-foot-10 blonde."

Heap still laughs at how Boller can talk trash while losing at the Golden Tee golf arcade game. He doesn't find the same humor when Boller wakes him up by talking loudly in his sleep.

"It's like he's yelling at somebody," Heap said. "I look around and it's not me. I think someone might have run a wrong route."

Boller, meanwhile, shakes his head when he sees Heap bringing toiletries in a zip-lock bag and hauling a large suitcase on wheels to camp. "It's like he's moving to Europe or something," Boller said.

If the Ravens have their way, neither Boller nor Heap will be leaving anytime soon. They envision Heap leaping for game-winning touchdowns and Boller strong-arming third-down passes for years to come.

It's their belief that Boller and Heap could develop into a winning combination.

"That's the ideal situation," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "Every quarterback that plays a long time has somebody that he loves throwing the ball to because he has confidence in him. If you have a good relationship with a guy and he's trustworthy, there's no doubt when game time comes, you're going to lean on that guy."

Ravens preseason opener

Opponent: Atlanta Falcons

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Thursday, 8 p.m.

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

Line: Ravens by 3 1/2

Ravens training camp

Full-team practices, today, 8:45-11 a.m. and 4-5:30 p.m.

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