Ravens' Olson learning on the job

OWINGS MILLS -- Drew Olson began his solitary quarterback experience Saturday morning with nervous misfires, overthrowing receivers as spirals collided off the walls of the Baltimore Ravens' indoor football field. By the end of the weekend, though, the undrafted free agent from UCLA had calmed down considerably.

And it showed, especially Sunday afternoon when the lone quarterback in the Ravens' rookie minicamp connected with wide receiver Demetrius Williams over the middle for a long touchdown by catching cornerback David Pittman off-guard.

"Early on, it was jitters and rust," said Olson, who finished eighth in the Heisman voting last season as he threw a school-record 34 touchdowns with six interceptions. "As we kept going, I got settled down and more relaxed."
Olson acknowledged his surprise that he wasn't drafted, but was glad to get a phone call from Ravens quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel early in the seventh round to signal the team's interest.

The former UCLA quarterback, who won a Rose Bowl for the Bruins in 1984, unsuccessfully tried to recruit Olson out of high school when he was the head coach at the University of Washington, but landed him this time for a modest $1,000 signing bonus.

Ironically, it was $4,000 less than David Koral, Olson's backup at UCLA for the past two seasons, received from the Indianapolis Colts.

It was more about the opportunity in Baltimore than the money for Olson, who turned down offers from the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams. Currently, the Ravens only have incumbent starter Kyle Boller and Brian St. Pierre on the roster and are pursuing Tennessee Titans veteran Steve McNair.

"They'll probably bring in Steve McNair, so it's a good situation," Olson said. "If I'm not on the roster, hopefully I'm on the practice squad."

The scouting report on Olson reveals a heady, albeit somewhat athletically-challenged quarterback with strong intangibles who led several fourth-quarter comebacks during the Bruins' 10-2 campaign. He completed 242 of 378 passes for 3,198 yards last season, but wasn't a hot commodity in a draft where a dozen quarterbacks were selected.

"To me, I always had something to prove, so not being drafted is a little added incentive," Olson said. "I was surprised not to be taken in the draft, but it wasn't heart-breaking."

However, the Northern California native doesn't have ideal size at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds or arm strength. Plus, he has limited mobility.

"He made UCLA competitive," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said prior to the draft. "He doesn't have the strongest arm and he's not the fastest or most accurate, but he knows how to win. He might not be a starter, but he'll definitely be a good backup."

Baltimore has been trying to develop a young backup for the past few seasons, but was unable to slip 6-foot-6 Derek Anderson through waivers last summer as he signed with the Cleveland Browns.

As the only quarterback at practice, Olson received a lot of individual attention from offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, Neuheisel and Ravens coach Brian Billick. Neuheisel tried to keep Olson relaxed, joking with him that he had better not trip over the cones during an agility drill. He didn't.

The former Pac-10 standout seemed to progress steadily, checking down to his secondary reads and dumping the football off adeptly to running back P. J. Daniels and tight end Quinn Sypniewski.

"It was fun because you get a lot of reps and a lot of experience," Olson said. "I'd like to think that I'm capable of playing this game at a high level."

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

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