Harris and Gaither vying for Ravens' third QB spot

OWINGS MILLS – In a cascading blur, spirals, patterns and cadences have become the chief preoccupation of rookie quarterbacks Josh Harris and Brian Gaither.<br><br> They are the two passers who are competing for one job: the Baltimore Ravens' third quarterback spot.<br>

The winner will ultimately hold a clipboard on the sidelines this fall while learning behind starter Kyle Boller and backup Anthony Wright. The loser will either be cut or earn a spot on a practice squad expanded this year from five to eight players.

Both players described this weekend's experience at a rookie minicamp as a major adjustment in terms of reduced time in the pocket to locate a target, and new terminology.

"The game is definitely faster," said Gaither, an undrafted free agent from Western Carolina. "Everything seems like a blur right now. Once you start learning the playbook and get down the offense, things will slow down.

"In college, I had time to hold the ball and could throw it whenever I wanted to. Now, it's basically a timing game: throw the ball on time and get it to the right people."

The son of former Cincinnati Bengals tight end M.L. Harris, Harris was drafted in the sixth round out of Bowling Green where he won 75 percent of his games in compiling a 24-8 record as a starter.

The honorable-mention All-American selection accounted for 9,976 all-purpose yards, 55 touchdown passes, 28 interceptions, 43 rushing touchdowns and 61-percent accuracy.

Along with Gaither, Harris received a lot of individual attention Friday and Saturday from senior consultant Jim Fassel, the former New York Giants head coach who tutored John Elway both at Stanford and with the Denver Broncos.

"He's great to have around," Harris said of Fassel. "He's paying a lot of attention to the small details, things that will make you a better and more consistent quarterback."

Along with former Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle-El, the Pittsburgh Steelers' receiver, Harris is one of two players in Division I-A history to pass and run for more than 40 touchdowns.

"You can see why Josh was as productive as he was," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He's got a physical presence about him. He's very consistent with his fundamentals and has been impressive so far."

Harris primarily operated out of the shotgun formation at Bowling Green, but didn't appear to have trouble dropping back from center at minicamp.

Last season, Harris led Bowling Green to a 27-25 upset win over Purdue when he passed for 357 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 238-pounder also completed 33-of-54 passes for 326 yards and two scores in a loss to Ohio State

And he led his team to a 38-24 win over Northwestern in the Motor City Bowl, completing 38-of-50 passes for 386 yards, three touchdowns, 68 rushing yards and a score.

"I just want to compete, pick up the system and not make a lot of mistakes," Harris said. "It's not easy. That's for sure, but that's why we're here. If you make a mistake, make it at full-speed. 

"I feel pretty comfortable, actually. I'm an athlete. I'm a quarterback. This is what I've been preparing my whole life to do."

Listed at 6-1, 221 pounds, Gaither was more of a pocket passer than Harris in college, where he split time as a junior and a sophomore.

As a senior, he completed 246-of-418 passes for 2,761 yards with 14 touchdowns. In 34 career games, Gaither passed for 5,159 yards, 27 touchdowns and 32 interceptions with five rushing scores.

"Gaither has the ability," Billick said. "He's a good athlete. He's got the ability to move around and move the chains with his feet a little bit."

Gaither chose the Ravens over the Atlanta Falcons, also considering the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"There's definitely an open spot here," Gaither said. "After talking with my family, Baltimore seemed like the best place for me to be."

Both quarterbacks had their moments in the minicamp as far as demonstrating arm strength. 

Both exhibited some signs of nerves, although Harris appeared to be more unfazed than Gaither in a veteran-free environment.

"They've both got strong arms," Billick said. "Their heads are just swimming right now, and it will be worse when they come back for the passing camp. They're going to be erratic a little bit, force things in, and have no idea where the defense is.

"They see a swatch of purple. So, that's got to be understood. Hopefully, that will diminish as time goes on."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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