Boller's mental errors in focus

Ravens could seek help of sports psychologist for beleaguered QB

December 13, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

Ravens coach Brian Billick continues to have Kyle Boller's back, saying yesterday that his starting quarterback has not played himself out of a job.

All he wants now is to get inside Boller's head.

In Sunday's 12-10 loss to the Denver Broncos, Boller committed three critical turnovers, all of which Billick described as mental mistakes. Billick said Boller needs to slow down his frenetic pace, a long-standing problem that might require an alternative solution.

In his news conference yesterday, Billick said he is considering "different" methods to get Boller into a comfort zone, which could involve a sports psychologist. The Ravens have two such specialists on staff, according to Billick.

"There might be a couple of things that I have in mind - I'm not going to go into that now - that I think could help put Kyle or any of our quarterbacks in a more productive mental state as they prepare for the game," Billick said. "There's only so much of it [you can do] from the football side. To approach it from another vantage point might be of value."

In his three years as a starter, Boller has frequently been a picture of chaos rather than composure.

He trips while dropping back. He loses the ball without being hit. He throws off his back foot. And he takes off running whenever he feels the slightest pressure.

These problems have usually led to turnovers and losses.

In Boller's four losses this season, he has thrown eight interceptions and lost two fumbles. In his two wins, he has been intercepted once and lost no fumbles.

"He has to calm his mechanics down. When he does, he's pretty darn good," Billick said. "Maybe if we can play enough games the league will beat it out of him to the point where, out of necessity, he slows down a little bit in some of the key fundamentals."

What Billick refuses to do is rush to a decision on Boller, saying he still has a chance to return as the starter next season.

Billick indicated he has not given up on his former first-round pick and will wait to evaluate him after the Ravens' final three games (Green Bay, Minnesota and Cleveland).

Boller has the NFL's second-lowest passer rating among starters (63.0), ranking ahead of only Chicago Bears rookie Kyle Orton (60.9).

"I know there's been a lot of judgments already made, and that's fair," Billick said. "But it's my job to look beyond that. I'm certainly not going to make those judgments without these next three games."

Boller has had moments of success this season, leading game-winning drives against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans.

But those efforts have been overshadowed by the distressing performances. On Sunday, he threw two interceptions inside Denver's 10-yard line and fumbled at midfield, finishing 23-for-39 for 251 yards.

"If he were 23 of 37 and not thrown two of those [interceptions], it would have been a hell of a day and win," Billick said. "Kyle played well enough for us to win the game but he did a couple of things that put us in jeopardy as well."

Although no Ravens players have publicly called for Boller to lose his starting job, no one has offered unwavering support, either.

Billick said the players' opinion will be a factor in how he handles the starting quarterback position going forward.

"The last time I made a dramatic quarterback move after the Super Bowl, I had a huge amount of player input," said Billick, alluding to the Ravens' controversial decision to sign Elvis Grbac over Trent Dilfer. "I'm fairly responsive to [the players], particularly key members of your veteran group that has a perspective. You have to hear them out. Confidence in your teammates is huge and becomes more paramount with a quarterback."

Receiver Derrick Mason, who offered veiled criticism of Boller after the game, also vented about his diminishing role in the offense.

In his first eight games - mostly with Anthony Wright at quarterback - Mason averaged 6.1 catches and 69.0 yards a game. In his past five games, with Boller, he has averaged 4.0 catches and 49.6 yards.

"For the last five games, I've been a glorified running back," Mason told Comcast SportsNet on Sunday. "Basically, I catch 5- and 6-yard routes. And that's not me. There has to be a point where you've got to allow someone to go out there and use his abilities to make plays. That's what you brought me in for. You allowed me to do some things in the first half of the season, but now it seems like I'm the third option everywhere we go."

Billick said Mason later apologized to the team for his comments.

"I don't know what Derrick meant by that," Billick said. "Derrick's a very emotional player."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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