Rolle: 'He's the truth'

OWINGS MILLS -- Whenever veteran quarterback Steve McNair is free to join the Baltimore Ravens, the proverbial red carpet to the locker room is already waiting. McNair has a reputation as a hard-nosed football player, the antithesis of the Hollywood image of a quarterback. The 2003 Co-Most Valuable Player is usually bleeding, limping and wearing a uniform covered with dirt and grass stains, endearing himself to teammates.

McNair's agent, Bus Cook, was authorized by the Tennessee Titans to negotiate with the Ravens. However, no restructured contract is believed to be imminent along with a trade or a release and it's believed that it will take a while for McNair to officially be on the Baltimore roster.

That reality hasn't dampened the excitement in the Ravens' training complex.

"I've gotten excited just hearing about it the last few days, and I think it would recharge the franchise and give us a fresh new outlook, a new beginning. He's a class act. He's the truth," said Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle, McNair's friend and former Titans teammate, who asked if a deal with Baltimore was done yet when he answered his cell phone. "From the standpoint of what Steve brings not just on the field, but as a leader, he would give us a boost. In Tennessee, he was a guy that everybody turned to.

"Eddie George might have been the face of the franchise, but everybody on the team knew who our leader was. He's the ultimate quarterback. He plays like a defensive lineman because of his tenacity."

McNair has been the Titans' starting quarterback since 1997, but the relationship soured when the Titans barred him from working out at their training facility, citing liability concerns. Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome offer of a fifth or a sixth-round draft pick in this year's draft was rejected by Titans general manager Floyd Reese, who said Monday that were no new developments on the McNair front.

McNair is scheduled to make $9 million in base salary and count $23.46 million against the Titans' salary cap. A restructured contract with Tennessee appears unlikely if not totally inconceivable at this point.

"Last year when we lost to Tennessee, I walked up to him and said, ‘We could really use you next year,'" said Rolle, who added he would be happy to recruit McNair if needed. "It seems like that's the way it's going to turn out."

McNair's agent has made it clear that the 11-year veteran wants to play for the Ravens. And it's obvious that the Ravens definitely want McNair, especially wide receiver Derrick Mason, who was selected to two Pro Bowls catching passes from McNair.

"It would be great to be reunited with Steve, but we have confidence in Kyle Boller," Mason said.

Baltimore has missed the playoffs for the past two seasons and has won just one playoff game [2001] since winning the Super Bowl six years ago.

Would acquiring McNair make the Ravens an instant contender?

"I would think so, but we all know what happened last year," Rolle said. "You don't want to jump too far ahead. But in the players' mind, this would put us over the top where we want to be.

"I think it lets you know that everyone around here is serious about winning. The time is now for us. We've got a veteran-laden team and we're not getting any younger."

A former first-round draft pick out of Alcorn State (Miss.), McNair has completed 59.5 percent of his career passes for 27,141 yards, 156 touchdowns, 103 interceptions and an 83.3 quarterback rating.

McNair, 33, has been prone to injuries recently and many in league circles wonder how much he has left.

"Steve is going to come in with a chip on his shoulder because the way things were handled in Tennessee," Rolle predicted. "I don't think any team wants to play us with Steve McNair playing with a chip on his shoulder."

McNair missed two games last season due to injuries, but completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and an 82.4 rating.

"The Ravens know Steve McNair so well from the rivalry we had with Tennessee, and they will tell you that Steve McNair was the only guy they had to worry about," Mason said. "I think he gives us leadership that we need. He's a competitor.

"Everybody knows we definitely underachieved going 6-10 with the type of talent we got. I don't think we can have a season like we had last year. Having him, it definitely won't happen."
 

Aaron Wilson writes Ravens Insider and the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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