McNair ruling may be on hold until June

Timing could delay move to Ravens, leave QB behind

May 17, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

The ruling from yesterday's hearing between Steve McNair and the Tennessee Titans might not come until June 1, a longer-than-expected wait that could delay the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback's move to the Ravens.

With an agreement already in place with McNair, the Ravens will be halfway through their spring workouts by the time the grievance is resolved.

Although the Ravens would prefer to have their quarterback situation settled sooner rather than later, offensive coordinator Jim Fassel said any veteran would have a viable shot at becoming the team's starter this season even if he is not added until after the spring camps.

"If [Ravens officials] signed somebody [at that point], they certainly would feel like he could do that," Fassel said. "It's going to be overload working. If it happens after the [spring] camps, then part of my vacation time is cut short."

The hearing, which was held at the Titans' team headquarters, lasted seven hours. McNair and his agent, Bus Cook, declined to comment after the proceedings.

Richard Berthelsen, the NFL Players Association general counsel, said the union's stance is McNair has the right to work out at Tennessee's training facility.

"Steve said what he has always said, `He would love to be a Tennessee Titan and wants his jersey to be retired here,'" Berthelsen told Tennessee reporters. "It seems like the team is not allowing him to perform. That's why we're all here.

"The club is saying they can keep him away, and that's what the arbitrator has to decide, hopefully by June 1."

According to Berthelsen, the delay is the result of arbitrator John Feerick's busy schedule.

Ravens officials privately remain confident that McNair will join the team over the next two months either by trade or release.

However long the delay becomes, Fassel said he believes personal tutoring could quickly bring a veteran up to speed, but he admits there's no substitution for these next five weeks of workouts.

The problem is the Titans likely won't be forced to release McNair even if he wins his grievance.

The Titans could allow McNair back into their complex and hold onto him until late July, when they would need to dump his $23.46 million salary cap in order to sign draft picks. At that point, McNair would have missed all of the Ravens' minicamps.

Whereas training camp is more physical, these spring workouts are where the Ravens do most of their heavy mental lifting.

The Ravens basically install their entire offense over the next month, from formations to terminology to route combinations. This is also the time when quarterbacks get their timing down with the receivers.

"A veteran quarterback can adapt, but [missing this time] still hurts," Fassel said. "It's got to flow quick. This is a game of reaction. The only way to get it is if it's embedded in you."

This is a delicate time for the Ravens. They already have a contract in place for McNair, but they still want to show support for Kyle Boller at these workouts.

Fassel explained to Boller that he should look at this situation as a "rite of passage."

"It'll either build your toughness and character or it will make you fold your tent," Fassel said. "There are certain struggles that every quarterback is going to have to go through."

In three years as the Ravens' starter, Boller has an 18-16 record with a career quarterback rating of 69.1. He has averaged just 165 yards passing per start, throwing 31 touchdowns and 32 interceptions.

"I think he'll progress to be an outstanding quarterback one of these days," Fassel said. "But it's got to happen and he's got to show that progress."

Note -- The Ravens have exchanged proposals with safety Ed Reed, but the sides aren't close to reaching a contract extension. Reed will earn $1.9 million this season, which is the final year of his contract.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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