Wright becomes the 10th and most unlikely starter in 4 1/2 seasons under coach Brian Billick, who has never promoted a quarterback from third string to No. 1. His last start -- along with last regular-season snap -- was with the Dallas Cowboys in October 2001. "It's a great opportunity," said Wright, who could start the next four games while Boller works his way back from a torn quadriceps muscle. "I understand the pressure that comes with being a starter of a football team and I'm ready to deal with it. I think the biggest thing for me this weekend is to play under control, to play within my game and not do too much."
The decision to leapfrog Wright over backup Chris Redman caused a stir in the Ravens' locker room. Most anticipated Redman would start this week and were astounded when news of Wright's promotion -- newly signed quarterback Ray Lucas accidentally told reporters of the move Tuesday -- leaked out. Some players said they heard about the change from television and others read about it in the newspaper before Billick made the official announcement at yesterday's team meeting. "I had no clue what was going on," said Heap, who heard it Tuesday from his wife watching the news. "I'm not going to lie, it caught me off guard."
The Ravens seemed more at ease with the decision in the locker room by Wednesday. "There's a method to coach's madness," running back Jamal Lewis said. "He knows what he is doing. I never question Coach Billick and his decisions."
Billick based his decision on the Ravens' offensive identity. With a scheme designed around the league's leading rusher Jamal Lewis, the Ravens' passing game needs to keep defenses honest. For most of the game, defenses will stack the line with eight-man fronts, content to play receivers one-on-one and daring the Ravens to beat them deep. To counter that, the Ravens are going with Wright because of his arm strength and athleticism. He has the potential to produce big plays with tight-spiraled throws downfield. He also has the mobility to fake the run one way -- getting the defense flowing to Lewis -- and bootleg the other direction for a high-percentage intermediate throw to a tight end. "That's a tough situation for Chris, but the reason we're going with Anthony Wright is that right now Anthony's physical attributes fit better with what we're doing," Billick said. "That's not Chris' fault; it's just a matter of Anthony's athleticism. That's the primary thing. He fits more with what we do in both our running and passing game."
In his eight-game career, Wright has completed 46 percent of his throws for 766 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions. The knock on him has been erratic throwing and lack of game experience. Despite not playing in a regular-season game in 25 months, Wright has not shown a lack of confidence. Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh saw that first-hand Tuesday when they told Wright he would be starting. "He had the look of 'it's about time,'" Cavanaugh said. "It wasn't shock. It was like, 'I'm happy you guys finally figured it out.'" By hearing about the decision to start Wright on Tuesday, the Dolphins were able to gain an extra day to dig up some old film on the five-year veteran. The Miami defense is formidable enough with eight former Pro Bowl players. "I am glad that we know who is starting at quarterback early enough in the week," Miami coach Dave Wannstedt said. "It gives us a chance to adjust game plan-wise to what he will do best."
Billick said he was going to announce the decision yesterday nevertheless. "There's a certain competitive advantage to that to a degree," Billick said. "But this team needs a definition."
SERIES HISTORY: 5th meeting. The Dolphins have won all three regular-season meetings but the Ravens won the only playoff matchup. Last year, the Ravens were physically manhandled by Miami in a 26-7 loss. Ricky Williams ran for 102 yards on 26 carries for the Dolphins. After the Ravens tied the game at 7, Miami scored the final 19 points.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--Newly signed Ravens quarterback Ray Lucas gave his former team an early scouting report Tuesday.
Just moments after signing a one-year contract at the Ravens' practice complex, the former Dolphins backup let it slip to a small group of local reporters that Anthony Wright would be the Ravens' starting quarterback Sunday in Miami.
When asked about his role with the Ravens, Lucas said, "I know a great quarterback got hurt here and that's a shame. I heard that Mr. Wright is going to be starting this week. There's no pressure on me right now."
A reporter asked Lucas to clarify if Wright was going to start against the Dolphins, to which Lucas replied, "I think that's what I heard. But I don't know that for a fact. I may have stuck my foot in my mouth. That's all I need. I haven't even unpacked yet."
--The Ravens are encouraged by their chances of getting rookie quarterback Kyle Boller back this season. The surgery -- which sutured the lateral tear of the muscle -- has sped up the original prognosis.
Their optimism is also based on experience. In the first half of the season, Boller has shown the ability to bounce back from injuries quicker than expected, including a sprained shoulder three weeks ago.
"(The doctors) felt like, if all things go well, he can play in four weeks which means the rehab will begin almost immediately," Billick said. "So, it's very good news. That's a very, very positive development."
--The Ravens got a bit of good news on the injury front. Cornerback Corey Fuller was not listed on yesterday's report after missing the last two games with hamstring and groin problems.
Just what exactly that means for the secondary, the Ravens either are not saying or have not decided.
"I played cornerback before I got hurt," said Fuller about a possible switch to safety. "I'm going to play cornerback when I come back."
Gary Baxter, who has started most of the season at safety, has replaced Fuller at cornerback, and the team may choose to keep him there and work Fuller in sporadically.
--With Sanders out, Ron Johnson will resurface as the team's No. 3 receiver after spending the last three weeks a healthy inactive.
Billick specifically called out Johnson during his interview session yesterday, wanting the second-year player to take advantage of this opportunity.
"I know I slacked off when I had the surgery," said Johnson, who has one catch this season and missed two other games after minor knee surgery. "I was down because I knew I wasn't going to play for at least two, three weeks. It's just a lot different now going into meetings, knowing I'm going to play in three-receiver sets."
--The Ravens are the No. 2 defense in the league, their highest position this season. "Statistical ranking doesn't mean a whole lot to me," Billick said.
--Chris Redman arrived at the Ravens' practice facility Tuesday night ready to begin the game plan as the starting quarterback against the Miami Dolphins.
By the time he sat down, he sustained the roughest blindsided hit of his tumultuous four-year career.
Coach Brian Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh informed Redman that he would remain the backup and third-string Anthony Wright would leapfrog him into the starting role. Once the team's quarterback of the future, Redman is now no longer seen as an option in the present.
"It was a definite shock," Redman said. "It's been a roller coaster ride and it's been tough. But I'm a tough guy and I can handle it. We have seven games left in the regular season and the opportunity can definitely present itself again. Obviously, I will come in with a little bit different attitude."
--After scoring the second touchdown of his career in the second quarter Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, left tackle Jonathan Ogden could have jumped around like a bunny like Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp did.
Instead, Ogden showed about as much emotion as he would after a key block.
"I'm not jumping around like a fool," said Ogden, who was lined up as a tight end on the play. "I just gave my little Hulk Hogan pose and went back to the huddle. That's it."
--The Ravens are 23-11 in games played in November and December, the league's fourth-best winning percentage in those months.
--Three of the Ravens' wins this season have come after a loss. In fact, the Ravens have never lost back-to-back games this season.
--When leading at halftime and after three quarters, the Ravens are 5-0.
--In five seasons under Billick, the Ravens have a 21-5 record when they produce a 100-yard rusher.
--The Ravens are 4-3 all-time against AFC East opponents.
BY THE NUMBERS: 10 -- Number of starting quarterbacks in Brian Billick's 4 1/2-season tenure with the Ravens.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everything I am going to do this week is going to be intensified. This is a chance of a lifetime. I'm definitely going to take advantage of it. I've been crying and griping about trying to get a chance ever since I left Dallas. I think this organization will give me that real chance. If I get in, it's going to be hard to get me out." -- Quarterback Anthony Wright, who makes his first start for the Ravens Sunday.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Starting Anthony Wright at quarterback instead of Chris Redman is a big gamble for the Ravens.
Redman already showed instability in replacing injured starter Kyle Boller on Sunday, when he went 7-for-12 for 58 yards with two interceptions and two fumbles. Now, by moving Wright past him, the Ravens delivered another vote of no confidence in Redman.
If Wright is injured or struggles horribly, there's a perception that they can't rely on Redman because he is damaged goods.
"I'm greatly concerned (about his confidence) and I'm going to try to help Chris through this as best we can," coach Brian Billick said. "I've been through this scenario before. We want to help this young man prepare in the advent that he has to go in. He understands that. This is a tough game and a lot of things happen.
"You can help an athlete as best you can but at some point, that confidence and inner strength has to come from within. Chris has that. I think he'll handle the challenge very well. I wish this could be different for him. But it's not and I'll wager he'll handle it very well."
--QB Kyle Boller (leg) is out for at least a month.
--TE John Jones (leg) could miss the next two games.
--WR Frank Sanders (ankle) could miss the next two games.
--WR Marcus Robinson (leg) is probable.
--RB Chester Taylor (leg) is probable.
--WR Travis Taylor (chest) is probable.
GAME PLAN: Starting their third-string quarterback Anthony Wright, the Ravens will rely more heavily on Jamal Lewis. They need the league's leading rusher to force Miami close to the line to give Wright a chance to make easy reads downfield or bootleg for high-percentage intermediate throws.
The Ravens defense ranks second in the league and are coming off their best effort of the season after shutting down the St. Louis Rams. The priority is stuffing Ricky Williams and the Ravens haven't had much trouble stopping power backs. The Ravens want Miami quarterback Brian Griese to have to throw because they think they can get some easy turnovers.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Ravens running back Jamal Lewis vs. Dolphins run defense. Lewis leads the league in rushing and has seven 100-yard games this season. The Dolphins allow only three yards per carry, which is tops in the league.
--Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden vs. Dolphins pass rusher Adewale Ogunleye. Ogden is perhaps having the best season of his All-Pro career. He is dominant on the run and a wall against the pass rush. Ogunleye leads the Dolphins with nine sacks and will go against Ogden since Miami usually tries to put Jason Taylor away from him.
--Ravens kicker Matt Stover vs. Dolphins kicker Olindo Mare: Stover has connected on 20 of 22 field goals including 15 in his last five games. Mare has been inconsistent this season, hitting just nine of 14 tries.
INJURY IMPACT: Quarterback Kyle Boller (leg) is out and will be replaced by Anthony Wright.
--Wide receiver Frank Sanders (ankle) is out and will be replaced by Marcus Robinson, who has underachieved this season.
--Tight end John Jones (leg) will not play which hurts the Ravens' punt and kickoff coverage teams.