Ravens notes and quotes

The Ravens' offense will look a little different entering training camp: In what has become a tradition of sorts for the Ravens, they have made another change at quarterback. Steve McNair, who was acquired from the Tennessee Titans for a fourth-round pick, is the 11th starting quarterback in the Brian Billick era (1999 to present), taking over for the erratic Kyle Boller.

McNair has directed Tennessee's passing attack to four top 10 rankings in five seasons. The Ravens have failed to crack the top 20 the past four years.

But McNair's numbers have tailed off the past two seasons since being named co-MVP. He has thrown 24 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in his last 22 starts, causing some to wonder if he is slipping after 11 physically draining seasons.

"Has Steve lost a little bit? No," said McNair, who turned 33 in February. "If you put a balanced attack with me right now, we can be successful and we can have the MVP season that I had in '03."

After two years of failing to make the playoffs, it was time for the Ravens to acquire a quarterback the caliber of McNair, a respected leader and proven passer.

"He's one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. His record speaks for itself," Billick said. "Clearly as our starter going in, Steve is going to add a dimension for us on this football team that we have not had since I've been here. He's going to be an asset on and off the field."

McNair represents the biggest upgrade to an offense that ranked 25th in scoring last season.

The only other change to the starting lineup was at right tackle, where Tony Pashos takes over for Orlando Brown. Pashos, a fifth-round pick in 2003, will be a full-time starter for the first time in his career.

Pashos is a typical right tackle, one who excels in the run game. But he lacks athleticism, which shows up in pass protection.

The Ravens re-signed Jamal Lewis to start at running back, but they did add Mike Anderson to bolster their depth.

Anderson could be given a chance to compete for the starting job if Lewis falters in training camp. Anderson, 32, gained 1,014 yards rushing and scored 12 touchdowns last season for the Denver Broncos.

"I assumed that I was going to come in and compete," Anderson said. "Nothing is guaranteed in this business. That's all I've been doing since my rookie year."

NOTES, QUOTES
--The Ravens reacquired safety Gerome Sapp by sending a conditional 2007 draft pick to the Indianapolis Colts. Sapp, a sixth-round pick by the Ravens in 2003, is expected to compete for the starting free safety job as well as provide an impact on special teams.

The Ravens waived Sapp after the 2004 season opener, a move not fully endorsed by the entire organization. Sapp later said the Ravens intended to cut cornerback Corey Fuller, but Fuller talked the coaches out of it by reminding them how he got Deion Sanders to sign with the team.

Sapp has since become a solid special teams performer for the Colts while Fuller played sparingly the rest of the 2004 season, his last in the NFL.

"We looked at it as an opportunity to upgrade our football team," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said of the trade.

--A day after Derrick Mason limped off the field to end spring minicamps, the Ravens confirmed their leading receiver will be ready for training camp at the end of next month.

Mason bruised his ankle while diving to make a touchdown catch Thursday and was later treated with ice. The injury was considered so minor that the Ravens didn't send Mason for X-rays.

In his first season with the Ravens, Mason led the team last season with 86 receptions, which set a Ravens' single-season record.

He has not missed a game since 2002, making 58 straight starts.

--The Baltimore Ravens announced that they have released quarterback Sonny Cumbie, linebackers Zac Woodfin and Ricky Foley, and defensive back Zach Norton.

--Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and receiver Demetrius Williams had private workouts after the Ravens' spring workouts ended. They couldn't attend the past practices because of an NFL rule that limits a player to one minicamp with his pro team while his school is still in session.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've got a great tight end here. I am very excited. He's a guy who has proven himself over and over again how he is one of the elite tight ends that's going to play the game." -- Quarterback Steve McNair on tight end Todd Heap.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With the acquisition of quarterback Steve McNair, the Ravens' only hole is at free safety.
Look for the Ravens to add a veteran there if one becomes available either before or during training camp. The Ravens are hoping either Gerome Sapp or Dawan Landry, a fifth-round pick, can step up if the team is unable to add another safety.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): CB Dale Carter; LS Drew Caylor; DT Gary Gibson; WR Patrick Johnson; CB Cash Mouton; RB Jamel White.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: DT Cedric Hilliard.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: CB Robb Butler; PK Aaron Elling; NT Aubrayo Franklin; LB Dennis Haley; DE Jarret Johnson; LS Matt Katula; RB Jamal Lewis; FB Ovie Mughelli; CB Zach Norton; CB Evan Oglesby; OT Tony Pashos; OG Brian Rimpf; QB Brian St. Pierre; RB B.J. Sams; LB Bart Scott; LB Mike Smith; RB Musa Smith; C Thatcher Szalay; DE Benard Thomas; CB B.J. Ward; TE Daniel Wilcox; LB Zac Woodfin.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: RB Mike Anderson; P Leo Araguz; DT Justin Bannan; CB Corey Ivy; LB Tim Johnson; QB Steve McNair; DE Trevor Pryce; S Gerome Sapp; LB Gary Stills.
PLAYERS LOST: LB Peter Boulware; OT Orlando Brown; S Will Demps; TE Darnell Dinkins; WR Randy Hymes; NT Maake Kemoeatu; LB Tommy Polley; CB Deion Sanders; RB Chester Taylor; DE Tony Weaver; S Chad Williams; QB Anthony Wright; P Dave Zastudil.
 


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