Billick declares Boller as Ravens' starter again

OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick has handed the football back to Kyle Boller.<br> <br> Billick announced Wednesday afternoon that last year's first-round draft pick from Cal will be the Ravens' starting quarterback next season, quelling speculation about another quarterback competition.<br> <br>

After undergoing surgery to repair a torn quadriceps following nine starts, Boller watched veteran Anthony Wright lead Baltimore to an AFC North title. On the day after the Ravens' 20-17 playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans, Billick said he wasn't prepared to announce a starter until he had evaluated the situation.

Now, Boller is officially the team's starting quarterback again. The 22-year old will have an additional tutor in senior consultant Jim Fassel, the former New York Giants coach who joined the Ravens' staff Wednesday.

"Kyle Boller is going to be our starter as we go into training camp," Billick said. "I can't conceive of a situation short of injury that he wouldn't be going into the season."

The Ravens have a significant investment in Boller, having signed him to a five-year pact worth $8 million last summer. Wright is set to become an unrestricted free agent, but Baltimore hopes he''ll return as Boller's backup.

Boller beat out Chris Redman in training camp and went 5-4 as a starter, tearing his quadriceps in the first half of a loss to the St. Louis Rams.

Boller passed for 1,260 yards with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions, completing 51.8 percent of his passes in compiling a 62.4 quarterback rating. 

"To know that I'm the guy and that everything is on me, believing in me to be the starting quarterback, it makes me feel good about myself," Boller said. "There is still competition. It's not like I can slack off and not do my job. I'm going to be working that much harder to show them that I am the starter."

Boller predicted after the season ended that he would be the Ravens' quarterback next season. He said Wednesday that he wasn't the owner of any inside information, just confidence.

"That was just me," said Boller, whom Baltimore acquired by trading this year's first-round draft pick and last year's second-round pick to New England. "I hoped that I would be the starter. They brought me in for a reason and I need to show them why they brought me here."

Wright took over under center after the Rams' game. He went 5-3 and quarterbacked the Ravens in the AFC wild-card loss to the Titans. 

For the season, he completed 52.8 percent of his passes for 1,260 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Wright would become an unrestricted free agent in March, but he has struck an optimistic stance about negotiating a contract extension with Baltimore before that signing period begins.

"If Anthony Wright has a chance of going someplace as a starter, he should and we will encourage and help him in all that we can," Billick said. "Short of someone totally committing to Anthony under those terms, we very much want Anthony back. He understands that.
"I can't think of a better situation for us than to go into the season with Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright in the stable for us. That's what we're trying to do."

Fassel has coached Hall of Fame passer John Elway in college and the NFL along with Giants quarterback Kerry Collins.

On a one-year basis, Fassell will assist Billick, offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and quarterbacks and receivers coach David Shaw in coaching Boller.

"He is fundamentally sound and you need to to give him enough to operate and win football games, but not too much as to where he is going to suffocate," Fassel said. "He is a good, natural quarterback. Don't confuse him."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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