Boller injured, likely out for the season

OWINGS MILLS - Inside the Baltimore Ravens' locker room at halftime Sunday night, rookie quarterback Kyle Boller couldn't even support his weight while standing on his injured left leg. Now, it's apparent that the first-round draft pick will probably miss the rest of this football season.

The day after Boller was knocked out of a 33-22 loss to the St. Louis Rams, a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed a deep tear to his quadriceps directly above his knee along with possible damage to the patellar tendon. "Kyle feels like he has let his team down by being injured, and that is why you kind of love the young man," said Ravens coach Brian Billick, whose team leads the AFC North. "He knows there are experiences that he is now going to miss. "To not be able to grow with experiences he was going to have in the second half of the season, it's very disappointing and I'm sure he is very emotionally distraught." 

Former starter Chris Redman, who struggled mightily against the Rams with two interceptions, a fumble, five sacks and a 31.2 quarterback rating, will lead the lowest-ranked passing game in the league against the Miami Dolphins. Redman is in the final year of his contract and is set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. A decision on whether Boller will undergo surgery or allow the injury to heal on its own will likely be made today. Billick indicated that he might be placed on injured reserve. Even though Billick didn't confirm that Boller is indeed done for the year, several team officials said Boller's season is over. 

Regardless of whether surgery is performed, Billick said the best-case scenario for the 22-year-old would be a minimum of a six-week recovery period. "That's a long time to hold a roster spot. Is that something you want to do with a rookie quarterback on the assumption that we make the playoffs because it would be January before he's back?," Billick said. "What's at the end when you get there? Right now, six weeks seems to be a pretty firm perspective." 

This likely marks the third consecutive season where Baltimore (5-4) loses a major contributor following Jamal Lewis' knee injury two years ago, Redman's back injury and linebacker Ray Lewis' partially separated shoulder last year. General manager Ozzie Newsome began contacting free agent quarterbacks in a perusal of the "usual suspects," in Billick's words. Newsome didn't identify candidates, but emphasized that backup candidate would have to fit in with the Ravens' run-oriented style headlined by NFL rushing leader Jamal Lewis.

 Whomever Baltimore signs to bolster depth at this historically trouble-ridden position will assume the role of third quarterback behind Anthony Wright and won't be considered to start, Billick said. Among the ranks of the unemployed: Ray Lucas, Mike Quinn, Jeff George, Neil O'Donnell, Danny Wuerffel, Clint Stoerner and Henry Burris. "It's hard to think that we're going to go out and pick someone off the street that's going to be better than them this week," Newsome said. "To think that we can just go out there and get someone and get him plugged in, that's a little farfetched." 

Wright, a former Dallas Cowboys starter, is another option. Wright has passed for five touchdowns and eight interceptions for a 50.8 career rating, but is much more mobile than Redman and engineered a few memorable wins over the Washington Redskins. "He's a good athlete," Newsome said. "He has a live arm. We like the way he handles himself around the other players." 

Boller likely incurred the injury in the second quarter when his kneecap collided with fullback Alan Ricard or while being chased toward the sidelines. Boller became visibly upset when informed of the extent of the injury by team doctor Leigh Ann Curl on Sunday night, composing himself quickly, according to team spokesmen. Boller, who is last in the AFC with a 62.1 quarterback ranking, declined interview requests Monday while crutching out of the Ravens' training complex. "I'm definitely worried," Boller said Sunday night. "Anytime you get an injury like this, it concerns you." 

The quadriceps and patellar tendons are thick fibrous tissues that aid the straightening of the knee, according to orthopedics Web sites. Typically, this injury occurs when the quadriceps contracts to break a fall, but can't withstand the force and ruptures. Repairing the damage usually involves an hour-long procedure with sutures being tied to the tendon and passed through holes in the knee cap. 

If Boller's season is indeed over, it represents a mixture of success and typical rookie shortfalls. The former Cal star completed 115 of his 223 passes for 1,250 yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was sacked 17 times. "Kyle was getting better, but we never wanted to put our offensive production in Kyle's hands," Newsome said. "Our season was about getting to the playoffs. We felt Kyle gave us the best opportunity to get there." 

Meanwhile, Redman is back after being beaten out by Boller in August, undergoing back surgery last winter and watching Jeff Blake take over the Ravens' offense last season once his herniated disc flared up. Redman achieved a 3-3 mark last season, passing for 1,034 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions for a 76.1 rating. "Last year seems like a lifetime ago," Billick said. Redman has looked like a man who has lost his confidence in two erratic appearances this fall. 

Against Cleveland, Redman whiffed on his lone passing attempt for a fumble. "He kind of started off slow and he got better the more he played," Newsome said of Redman, who excelled in wins over the Denver Broncos and Browns last fall. Redman showed obvious signs of rust on Sunday at Edward Jones Dome. He slipped badly on a handoff attempt to begin the second half and was sacked two plays later. "Any time a quarterback comes off the bench, that's tough," Billick said. "That's a tough thing to do, but that's what you're paid to do. That's your job." 

Redman also didn't put much muscle on his throws to Todd Heap and Travis Taylor with interceptions to cornerback Jerametrius Butler and linebacker Tommy Polley. Redman was 0-for-4 with an interception for a zero rating in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, he completed 7-of-8 passes for 58 yards and one interception. "I'm just real hungry for the next time I get out there," Redman said. "I know I can play. I'm not losing any confidence. It's just a matter of getting comfortable with everything again." 


Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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