Modell: Ravens plan to 'ride' Boller, not drive with Brunell

THE BALTIMORE SUN

KYLE BOLLER'S confidence was shaken in Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, but owner Art Modell says the Ravens quarterback has enough potential to become a great player in the NFL.

Though Boller completed only seven of 17 passes for 78 yards and finished with a quarterback rating of 31.0, Modell urged fans to have patience during the development of the rookie, the No. 19 overall pick in April's draft. He also squelched any speculation about trying to obtain veteran Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell this season.

"We're going to ride the kid," said Modell, in his 43rd season as an NFL owner. "If we made a mistake [with Boller], it was an organizational mistake. But we have confidence in Kyle Boller. I've seen some of the great ones in my time, and this kid has the potential.

"He doesn't have everything in place now, but give him some time. I think he is going to be a great one."

Patience is a key with the rookie, but no one can put a finger on when or if the time will come. It has been clear from the first two games that Boller wasn't ready to play, but this season is about his development, not the playoffs, right?

Buried beneath the hysteria of Jamal Lewis' rushing record of 295 yards Sunday was the fact the Ravens had virtually no passing game, and both quarterbacks, Boller and Redman, lacked confidence.

Ravens coach Brian Billick wanted to establish an offensive identity, and the Ravens can certainly call themselves a running team. But late in the game Sunday, the Ravens ran 13 straight rushing plays, and it wasn't just to run off some time.

They were afraid to throw. The West Coast offense had become the wishbone.

"It was a tough day for him," Modell said of Boller. "I love our defense. I love our running game. Hopefully, Kyle Boller learned from his mistakes. I'm not a coach; I'm not down on the sidelines with him. But it appears to me that he is trying to aim the ball instead of throwing it."

At this point, it's such a head game for Boller. Modell is right. The kid needs to relax and just let it rip, which would allow him to have more of his natural throwing motion. Boller hit the wall Sunday in the first quarter, when a pass from the Ravens' 19 intended for receiver Frank Sanders was nearly picked off and could have been returned for a touchdown by linebacker Kevin Bentley.

On the next series, Boller drastically underthrew wide-open receiver Marcus Robinson on a possible touchdown pass, but it was intercepted by safety Earl Little at midfield with 7:45 left in the half. His next pass attempt was low to tight end Todd Heap across the middle, and then he threw short over the middle again to Lewis.

Boller never rebounded. He fumbled twice in the second half, losing one, and never looked comfortable in the pocket. He got hurt early in the third quarter, and was pulled with 2:50 remaining in the quarter because of a thigh and knee injury. Boller said he could have played, but there was no need. He had taken a beating for the second straight week.

But if he was shaky, Redman was just as scary. Actually, was that Redman or Jeff Blake or Vinny Testaverde back in town? Redman whiffed on his first pass attempt, an audible that he shouldn't have called. He tripped while handing off on one play and short-armed a pass on another.

It's apparent Redman hasn't recovered mentally from unfairly losing the quarterback competition in preseason.

Boller, though, will bounce back. The Ravens have too much money invested in him not to have him full of pep and fire. Redman, though, may not be the same until he leaves Baltimore at the end of the season.

Right now, the Ravens have an offense with little leadership at the top position. They have a rookie whose psyche is fragile and another whose ego is shot.

"I think he got a little anxious and knew this was an opportunity to make some throws," Billick said of Boller. "I think he rushed his fundamentals, and that's what a young player will do. We'll continue to work on those fundamentals so he doesn't rush on his drops and the way he carries the ball.

"He saved himself a couple of times from having learned from the previous weeks before. He made a bunch [of mistakes] on Sunday that he'll learn from and hopefully not make again."

As for Redman, Modell said: "Actually, he is struggling with confidence, but he has got to reach down and grab it."

Both Modell and Billick know they have to develop a passing game. Sooner or later, teams will move eight or nine players near the line of scrimmage to shut down Lewis, and the Ravens have to be able to capitalize with plays on the outside, especially passes.

One way or another, those plays have to come from Boller. He is the man. Unlike most weeks during the season in the past five years, there is no quarterback controversy. Because of the poor performance Sunday, rumors started circulating again that the Ravens wanted to obtain Brunell, whose time is limited in Jacksonville because of rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich, the player most of the Ravens' front office coveted in the draft.

Trades, though, very seldom happen in the NFL. It's just wishful thinking, even though it makes great sense because Brunel would significantly increase the Ravens' playoff chances, and he would also give Boller a chance to watch the game from the sidelines.

But that's conventional thinking, common sense. Modell has placed a lot of faith in Boller.

"Not at this stage, we're not interested in that deal," Modell said of Brunell. "That would have been a fascinating proposition about two months ago. We talked about it then, but we didn't know what it would cost us. To make that decision now would be a terrible mistake for this franchise.

"That's a decision you make in January or February or at draft time," Modell said. "You don't want to bring in a quarterback cold now to learn a new system. Plus, it wouldn't help the confidence of a Kyle Boller or a Chris Redman. Again, we're planning on riding the kid."

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