Boller says he has few regrets

Despite rocky Ravens tenure, quarterback had 'great time'

April 10, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

After six years of taking vicious shots from pass rushers, fans and the media, embattled quarterback Kyle Boller is leaving Baltimore standing tall.

Boller, who signed with the St. Louis Rams, said Thursday that he departs with no ill feelings over a period defined by heavy criticism and unfulfilled expectations.

"I had a great time there. I still think it's a great city," Boller told The Baltimore Sun in his first comments to the Baltimore media this offseason. "I'm going to miss [owner] Steve Bisciotti a lot, and I'm going to miss my teammates. It's definitely different to be gone. But at the same time, it's very exciting for me to have a fresh start. I think it's going to be a great opportunity for me here."

Boller faced extraordinary pressure from the moment he was selected with the 19th pick in the 2003 draft. Not only did he become the first quarterback drafted by the Ravens in the first round, he was rushed as a rookie into starting for a playoff-contending team.

Inconsistent play (45 career touchdowns and 44 interceptions) and injuries (thigh, toe, concussion and shoulder) made Boller one of the biggest hot-button figures in Baltimore sports history.

In the 2005 season opener, some at M&T Bank Stadium cheered when Boller injured his toe and writhed on the ground in pain.

"The fans have been great to me in Baltimore. I hold no grudge," Boller said. "There will always be people that dislike you. At the same time, there were a lot of people that supported me and I'm very thankful for."

Boller also expressed no animosity toward the Ravens for replacing him twice during his time here, whether it was trading for Steve McNair in 2006 - "I understood that," Boller said. "He's a great player and Steve taught me a lot" - or drafting Joe Flacco in the first round last year.

Boller stayed connected with the team when he could have separated himself as other players with season-ending injuries have done. Boller, who missed all of last season because of a shoulder injured in the preseason, returned frequently to watch games on the sideline and attend team meetings.

"He was there supporting Joe, supporting Troy [Smith], the rest of our offense," coach John Harbaugh said at the end-of-the-season news conference. "That's just the kind of person he is, and he was a big plus for our team."

Said Boller: "I was happy to see those guys do well last year. It would have been fun to play in Cam Cameron's offense and see what happens. But you can't control injuries."

Known for his arm strength and athleticism, Boller leaves the Ravens with the most passing yards (7,846) and the most wins by a starting quarterback (20-22 record) in team history.

He often showed flashes of turning the corner before stumbling because of a lack of poise. In 52 career games, he fumbled 19 times and threw 44 interceptions.

But he remained a consummate professional, never lashing back at fans or pointing fingers at poor pass protection.

"My biggest thing there was just playing a little too early and injuries," said Boller, who was sidelined for 30 games over six seasons because of injuries. "But that's part of the game. Hopefully, over the next six or seven years, I won't have those injuries and will be able to play a lot more."

Boller, who turns 28 in June, says he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL again after fully recovering from an injury to his right shoulder.

He could have another chance after signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Rams. He'll back up Marc Bulger, who has played only one full season in his seven-year career.

"It's been an up-and-down ride. But having started 42 games and being around a lot of different quarterbacks, I know I can play," Boller said. "It's a matter of working hard every day and getting that right situation to go in there and shine. When my opportunity presents itself, I just have to take advantage of it."

When Boller was placed on injured reserve in September, general manager Ozzie Newsome said Boller has a shot to be successful in the league.

"If he was to continue to progress the way he was doing, then, yes, I think he can still be a productive quarterback in this league," Newsome said.

When it comes to the Ravens, Boller will be forever linked to former coach Brian Billick, one of Boller's most vocal supporters, although they haven't kept in touch since Billick was fired in December 2007.

"It's kind of weird. We've both been kind of busy," Boller said. "I think he's a great guy and he gave me a lot of opportunities. I would have no problem talking to him or having dinner with him. It just hasn't come to that point where we have really sat down and talked."

Boller, however, has talked with center Jason Brown. After Brown signed with the Rams, he told St. Louis reporters about how Boller was "gun-shy" with the Ravens.

"He was trying to make a point and it came out the wrong way," Boller said. "It literally took one minute to get over it. I asked him about it, and he explained it. I'm glad to be with him. That was one of the things that got blown up [more] than it really should have been."

Now, Boller is ready to move ahead after leaving behind some fond memories and few regrets.

"I wish there [were] more memories and more playoff games and that kind of stuff," Boller said. "But, hey, it is what it is."

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