Boller said he's prepared whether he starts or not

OWINGS MILLS - This third stage of the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback derby could go a long way toward determining a competition and defining an offensive approach. Regardless of whether incumbent Chris Redman starts tonight against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field or watches strong-armed rookie challenger Kyle Boller begin the game under center, both candidates are aware that the time to make a statement is dissipating.

Baltimore opens the season on Sept. 7 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ravens coach Brian Billick has said he might not announce his starter until hours before kickoff. "Obviously, they're getting closer to making a decision about the first game," said Redman, a starter last fall until aggravating a herniated disc that has responded well to surgery. "One of us has to start, and the other has to sit on the sidelines. This is what football is all about." Redman has started the first two preseason games, although he's received a total of one half of playing time versus Boller's cumulative entire game. Yet, Boller, 22, has taken the majority of the repetitions with the first offense this week in practice. Plus, an article on the NFL's official Web site suggested that the Baltimore coaching staff is considering starting the first-round draft pick either now or next week to make a fair comparison.

 Whatever happens, Boller struck a confident stance that he'll be ready for blitzes, bombs and blocking schemes. "Hopefully, I'll very prepared because I've put in the time to learn everything," Boller said. "I'm just going to go out there and have fun, not press, but play. A lot of times you get caught up in overthinking things and you don't play to your abilities. "I just want to make sure that when I go out there, I don't think about things. Just let it fly." 

Boller has given the coaches four quarters to analyze with five scoring drives, four ending in touchdowns. The former Cal star has passed for 256 yards on 19-of-39 accuracy with two touchdowns, one interception and a quarterback rating of 76.4. The rookie orchestrated a last-minute comeback attempt in a 20-19 loss to the Buffalo Bills with a perfect spiral to Randy Hymes for a touchdown. "The physical tools are showing that we knew he had," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "He's athletic, he's got a very strong arm, and he's got quick feet. "What I'm excited about is the way he is just handling the terminology and his natural excitement. He's a leader, he motivates." 

Boller has demonstrated a resilient streak. In the second quarter of last week's 13-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons, Boller failed to recognize the coverage and threw an interception to Ray Buchanan. Against the Falcons' second defense in the third quarter, Boller completed 5-of-9 passes for 99 yards, two scoring drives and a 145.3 rating. "I think leadership at the quarterback position is the ultimate," Boller said. "The greatest players out there, [John] Elway and [Brett] Favre have a certain command. In tough situations, when things are going bad, I think your teammates need somebody to look to at quarterback. "You have to instill confidence in your players. If I throw a pick, I can't put my head down. You've got to have your teammates believing in you." 

In two quarters, Redman has passed for 97 yards on 9-of-15 accuracy with no touchdowns, an interception that wasn't his fault and a 51.3 rating. Redman's production has been affected by playing time, dropped passes, penalties and play-calling. His longest completion is 19 yards. Redman said it wouldn't trouble him if Boller did start against the Redskins or the New York Giants. His goal remains the same: to be the Ravens quarterback against the Steelers and for the entire season. "I've got to go out there, keep it going and just continue to compete," Redman said. This decision may ultimately come down to a debate between Redman's reliability and experience against Boller's superior physical gifts and unpredictability. 

Redman is in the final year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. The Ravens have a lot invested in Boller, including a five-year contract that could be worth up to $20 million with incentive and escalator clauses. Baltimore drafted Boller 19th overall after trading next year's first-round pick and this year's second-round pick to the New England Patriots. However, rookie quarterbacks tend to receive a rocky greeting from the NFL, including Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman and Elway. Dan Marino's first season is one of the few exceptions to that rule. "There are a million scenarios, and I've done the homework," Billick said. "I've looked at every rookie quarterback that has started in this league, six starts or more, since 1960. "I've talked to a number of people whose counsel I value about this process. The options are limitless." 

edman and Boller said they don't normally learn who will start until the night before the game. Boller vows that he'll be ready no matter what happens. "I'm going to prepare like I'm going to start or be the fourth quarterback," Boller said. "Whatever they tell me, it really doesn't matter to me because I'm going to be prepared for anything. So long as I don't make the same mistake twice, I'll be all right." 

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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