Ring's the thing for McNair

With busy agenda, veteran QB is super psyched to get back to title game with new team

Ravens

June 09, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

On his first full day with his new team, Steve McNair laid out a to-do list nearly as long as the one containing the names of quarterbacks who preceded him.

He wants to mentor Kyle Boller. He wants to take pressure off the defense. He wants to add the much-needed spark to the passing game.

All he asks in return is a ring. In fact, he asked repeatedly, mentioning the "Super Bowl" seven times in his half-hour introductory news conference yesterday.

"When you play this game a long time, you try to find that missing piece in your career," said McNair, who passed his physical yesterday to officially complete his trade from the Tennessee Titans for a fourth-round draft pick. "I think this is where I can win a Super Bowl."

Likewise, McNair could be the missing piece in the Ravens' championship puzzle.

The Ravens tried taking chances on cast-off quarterbacks (Scott Mitchell, Tony Banks and Jeff Blake). They unsuccessfully gambled on a quarterback who was a strong passer but weak leader (Elvis Grbac). They attempted to develop a quarterback drafted in the first round (Boller).

After two years of failing to make the playoffs, it was time for the Ravens to acquire a quarterback the caliber of McNair, a respected leader and proven passer.

"He's one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. His record speaks for itself," coach Brian Billick said. "Clearly as our starter going in, Steve is going to add a dimension for us on this football team that we have not had since I've been here. He's going to be an asset on and off the field."

The Ravens are banking on him being the equalizer after agreeing on a five-year contract with McNair that includes an $11 million signing bonus.

Since 1999, the Ravens' offense has ranked in the top half of the NFL just once. Over that same time, their defense has dipped lower than sixth just once.

"I think it would take a lot of pressure off one of the most important assets on this football team if we can produce and keep the defense off the football field," McNair said. "My goal is to get this offense rolling. I told them it's all about chemistry, execution and believing in each other."

McNair, who shared the NFL Most Valuable Player award in 2003, has averaged 16 touchdown passes during his nine years as a full-time starter. He is one of only five quarterbacks to have thrown for 20,000 yards and rushed for 3,000 yards.

"I think it transforms us," said Ravens receiver Derrick Mason, who played with McNair for eight seasons in Tennessee.

The Ravens' defensive players were equally as elated about McNair's arrival.

"Obviously, it puts confidence in us that we can score with anybody now," said Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle, who was also a teammate of McNair with the Titans. "We just have to play solid defense like we always do."

Although McNair won't practice until next week, he was a popular spectator at yesterday's workout.

He shook nearly every hand on the field, joked with linebacker Ray Lewis and introduced himself to Boller. The two quarterbacks chatted throughout the practice.

"I'm a firm believer that you have to have two good quarterbacks to get to the Super Bowl," McNair said. "We're going to sit down and converse and do everything it takes to help this ballclub."

Boller, who went 18-16 with a career quarterback rating of 69.2 during his three-year run as starter, was unavailable for comment.

Billick insisted the Ravens have not given up on Boller.

"We do have a lot of faith in Kyle Boller," Billick said. "But we made it very clear that if a certain level of productivity presented itself - and I think Steve McNair embodies that it's a slam dunk - that we're not going to bypass that at any position. We're going to need Kyle Boller and I have no doubt he'll be ready to do that."

By handing Boller's job over to McNair, the Ravens have renewed hopes of making a run at the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

"At the outset of this offseason, we talked about upgrading our football team," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Bringing Steve in, does that guarantee us being in Miami? No, it doesn't. But I think today we are a better football team than we were yesterday."

NOTES -- The Ravens will scrimmage the Washington Redskins on Aug. 5 at noon at FedEx Field, a team official confirmed. The scrimmage was held at M&T Bank Stadium last season. ... Safety Ed Reed participated in team drills after sitting out two days of minicamps. In the middle of practice, he had a five-minute talk with owner Steve Bisciotti. There has not been substantial progress made in talks to extend Reed's contract. ... Linebacker Ray Lewis (hamstring), center Mike Flynn (knee) and receiver Clarence Moore (hernia) did not practice.jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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