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Testaverde benched by TV event QB won't defend title in Challenge


For the second time in less than three months, Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde has been sacked for Jim Harbaugh.

Harbaugh, signed by the team on Feb. 14, will participate in the ninth annual Foot Locker NFL Quarterback Challenge tomorrow in Orlando, Fla., in place of Testaverde even though Testaverde is the defending champion.

According to Chris Widmaier, the NFL's director of corporate communication, Harbaugh was selected over Testaverde because he is projected as the Ravens' starter, and only the No. 1 quarterback can participate in the field of 12.

Michael Azzarelli, Testaverde's agent, said CBS made the decision on Testaverde because his future is in doubt. The Ravens are expected to release Testaverde shortly after June 1 for salary cap reasons. The Quarterback Challenge is expected to be shown on tape delay in August.

"It's a taped CBS event," said Azzarelli, whose client is drawing interest from the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. "He may be in a Ravens uniform now, but it won't be shown until August. They didn't know what kind of jersey he would be wearing then. Vinny worked hard to earn the title and he wants to defend it. It's just another thing to add up. It's pitiful. I think it stinks."

A CBS spokesman referred all questions to the NFL.

"Jim Harbaugh will be representing the Ravens," Widmaier said from Orlando, where the event will be held at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. "From the information that was forwarded to NFL Properties and our events people, Jim Harbaugh is projected as the starter and we only take the starting quarterback.

"This is really a different kind of situation, the first of its kind. We had a situation before with Randall Cunningham where he was thinking about retiring or possibly playing with another team, but not the defending champion."

Widmaier did confirm that the event probably will be shown in August, several weeks after all 30 teams have been in training camp.

"It has traditionally been a late summer sports special and the highest rated sports special on NBC," Widmaier said. "We would like to continue that tradition with CBS."

Ravens owner Art Modell said: "I have nothing to do with it. It is beyond my influence."

In another development yesterday, the Ravens lost out in their bid to sign Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Sean Dawkins, who agreed to a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints worth $750,000. The Saints, Ravens and Oakland Raiders were the three teams interested in Dawkins.

Dawkins wanted to play for a team on which he would start. The Ravens would have put him in a three-man rotation with Michael Jackson and Jermaine Lewis.

"From the beginning, his agent stated he wanted a chance to be a starter or the No. 1 receiver," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel. "He'll get that opportunity with New Orleans."

Dawkins said, "This is a chance to be the starter, the No. 1 guy, and I took that into account. That was one of the reasons for coming here along with some other factors. When I made my visit, everything was positive and this is an up-and-coming team."

The Ravens, searching for a veteran cornerback and receiver, still have interest in New England Patriots receiver Vincent Brisby.

Pub Date: 5/01/98

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