Marc Bulger looking sharp in preseason

OWINGS MILLS – Marc Bulger calmly dropped back in the pocket, identified his target and rifled a spiral into the waiting hands of rookie wide receiver David Reed. The Baltimore Ravens' backup quarterback repeated the sequence quite a few more times during a 23-3 preseason victory over the Washington Redskins last weekend at FedEx Field

It was a mere exhibition game, but Bulger delivered a commanding performance as he completed 13 of 16 passes for 130 yards and a 100.5 passer rating.

After a disappointing end to his tenure with the St. Louis Rams prior to signing a one-year, $3.8 million contract with the Ravens this summer to back up Joe Flacco, the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback is making a statement with his actions that he still has some good football left in him.

"I have confidence in myself that I can still play," Bulger said. "I don't think that one or two preseason games is going to end anyone's questions of if I can still play. You're going to go through tough times as a quarterback in this league. You have to have confidence in yourself, and I haven't lost that."

Written off by many around the league as the Rams won just one game last year, Bulger, 33, is gaining believers in the Ravens' locker room. Bulger engineered a 14-play, 94-yard touchdown drive where he completed all eight throws, and led the Ravens to 10 points in his three drives against the Redskins.

His best throw was a 25-yard strike to Donte' Stallworth.

"He's not doing anything that we hadn't seen him do in St. Louis," veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "Of course, the guy is capable of winning football games and leading this team to game-winning drives. What you see in games is the same thing you see in practice: his accuracy, his attention to detail, the quick release. "That's all you can ask from a quarterback. He gets the ball out quickly and he puts it on the receiver. Bulger has been around the league a long time. He's been in an offense similar to what we run. He feels pretty much at home, and it shows."

Bulger's numbers have regressed over the past three seasons since passing for a career-high 4,301 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2006. Last season, he dipped to five touchdowns with six interceptions and a 70.7 passer rating in five starts.

He combined for 22 touchdowns and 28 interceptions between 2007 and 2008. "The most important thing is you want to keep getting better and not go in the other direction," Bulger said. "There are plenty of things I could have done better, but I'm improving and that's all I want to do." Heading into his 10th NFL season, Bulger has passed for 22,814 career yards with 122 touchdowns and 93 interceptions for an 84.4 rating.

Now, Bulger is embracing a fresh start in a new NFL city after being convinced to sign with Baltimore when he was cut loose after the Rams decided to go with University of Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford as the top overall pick of the draft.

"I wanted to go to a winning team first, an organization that wants to win and a good coaching staff and good players," Bulger said. "They kind of had everything here. I wasn't going somewhere for whatever reason except to win. This opportunity came along, and it was pretty clear." With no starting opportunities available around the NFL, Bulger was selective when it came time to ponder where he wanted to be a backup. He was familiar with the offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's system having played for Mike Martz in St. Louis, which was a major plus. "I should've been a salesman, I guess," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He was really interested in coming here from the get-go. I think he liked the offense. He liked the vibe around our team.

"We knew he was really interested and I thought we had a great shot to get him, but it took about three, four weeks for him to come to a conclusion that he was going to do it because he had a lot of things to consider: family things. Obviously, he's married and has a newborn, so it took him a while to finally make a decision." In his preseason debut, Bulger didn't get off to a sterling start.

He completed just 5 of 12 passes for 67 yards and lost a fumble.

Admittedly, Bulger still isn't completely knowledgeable about the Ravens' terminology. He's picking it up quickly, though. "I'm getting there, I'm definitely not there yet," Bulger said. "I'm just learning the verbiage so it comes out a little bit better and all the nuances they put in the spring I'm still catching up on. I'm not there, but I'm going in the right direction.

"I was in the West Coast system last year, and I had nothing to reference back to. With this offense, at least I can reference back to coach Martz's system. That's made it a lot easier." While he shined against the Redskins, Flacco had an off night.

Bulger isn't here to challenge Flacco, though, and there's no quarterback controversy. "I've been around the league a long time and I've had and probably will have a lot of bad games in the preseason," Bulger said. "I've never done particularly well in the preseason, so I've heard that talk before. I've been in Joe's situation, and he's doing fine.

"We watched the film, and we know why certain things happened. So, there's no talk of that here. That's just what fans do, and it's fun." Bulger has provided a mentoring presence for Flacco, who hasn't had a quarterback more experienced than him on the roster since Todd Bouman was on the team.

"Marc is a great guy, so he's easy to get along with," Flacco said. "Marc's been a good quarterback in the league and he does some things pretty well, so I just try to get his point of view on some things."

If Bulger has to play significantly, he can earn up to $5.3 million this year by triggering incentive clauses.

The plan is for him to hardly ever leave the bench area, though. "Hopefully, I won't have to play a down this year," Bulger said. Bulger grew up in Pittsburgh and played collegiately at West Virginia. Returning to the East Coast represents a return to his roots.

And Bulger is extremely happy with his decision to come to the Ravens, who have been labeled widely as a Super Bowl contender. "That's why I took my time," Bulger said. "I didn't want to go and start somewhere and not have fun or not be winning. I knew when I picked a place, I was going to be content from that moment on and it hasn't disappointed at all. I'm having a great time here."

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