Blake defends himself, Brooks agrees to terms

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens' divorce from quarterback Jeff Blake continues to create controversy in NFL circles. Free agent passer Kordell Stewart has yet to confirm a visit date for this week yet, according to the Ravens. And offensive tackle Ethan Brooks agreed in principle to a two-year contract to try to protect whomever emerges as the next Ravens' starting quarterback. The spiciest topic at the moment is the acrimony surrounding Blake's departure from Baltimore.

While visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday, Blake used a press conference to criticize the Ravens' approach.

"You have the right to shop around," Blake said "I don't know why they tried to take that right away from me. I don't think that's fair.

"Sometimes, it boils down to money. I don't think you should get personal when it comes to the business aspect of it. I want to be able to take care of my family."

Last week, the Ravens withdrew their three-year contract offer to Blake that averaged between $1.5 and $2 million per season. That decision was a direct reaction to Blake embarking on a free agent tour that began with the Chicago Bears, extended to the Steelers and culminates with the Arizona Cardinals later this week.

No accord was reached despite Ravens coach Brian Billick flying to West Palm Beach, Fla., to meet with Blake to emphasize his commitment to him as the starter. Part of their conversation apparently included the negative perception with the team and fans surrounding Blake hugging and chatting with Steelers coach Bill Cowher right after tossing a game-ending interception to lose the season finale.

"They didn't say anything bad about me until I started taking these trips," Blake said. "After the game, [Cowher] said you almost got me again, and I said that's right. "You go up and show sportsmanship. That's all it was. It wasn't like I was trying to lose the game. If you think that, you've got issues, bad issues."

Contrary to the Ravens' assertion and his agent that talks are shut down permanently, Blake said he believes the door is still open in Baltimore.

The holdup to a Stewart visit includes scheduling issues. General manager Ozzie Newsome is attending competition committee meetings.

Stewart reportedly wants a contract in excess of $3 million, less than the Cardinals and Bears' offers. Blake is a fallback option for both teams if Stewart signs elsewhere.

"I think there's no question that Kordell is the frontrunner in Chicago," said Ralph Cindrich, Blake's agent. "I don't think Kordell's coming to Baltimore. I don't think they will pay nearly enough money unless they view him as that much superior to Jeff."

Stewart, 30, has a 0-2 mark in AFC title games, was replaced as a starter by Tommy Maddox last year and has career totals of 70 touchdowns and 72 interceptions.

Blake, 32, was 4-6 as a starter for Baltimore after replacing the injured Chris Redman. He has 119 career touchdowns against 89 interceptions.

The Ravens are likely to stage a competition between a veteran and Redman and also draft a quarterback within the first three rounds of the April draft.

"I know whoever they get, they are going to get more than they were offering me," Blake said. "It's just inevitable. I can't see anybody signing a contract like that if they are coming in to be a starter."

Meanwhile, Brooks, 30, started 13 games last season at right tackle, a perilous position for the Ravens over the years. Brooks was somewhat rusty having missed the 2001 season after being released by the Denver Broncos shortly after his wife's death.

"It's Ethan's job to lose," said Robert McManus, Brooks' agent, although the Ravens hosted the mountainous Orlando "Zeus" Brown last week. "He has enormous skill level. He has to play up to that skill level."

NOTES: Former Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams is mulling over a contract proposal from the Buffalo Bills. "We're still working on the parameters and something could happen by the middle of the week," said Angelo Wright, Adams' agent. "The Ravens could resurface. They know the market."

Receiver Brandon Stokley visited the Carolina Panthers and return specialist Jermaine Lewis visited the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Also, unrestricted free agent defensive end Riddick Parker said he finalized paper work on a one-year contract with the Ravens on Monday.

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