WESTMINSTER, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have an answer ready when they're asked if they can win a Super Bowl this season with second-year pro Kyle Boller as their starting quarterback. "We won one with Trent," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said as a training-camp practice wrapped up Tuesday at McDaniel College.
Trent Dilfer, of course, didn't win the Super Bowl for the 2000 Ravens. He just made certain that he didn't do anything too risky or too stupid to prevent one of the greatest defenses in league history from winning the Super Bowl.
"When we won the Super Bowl, Trent didn't carry the team," left tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "He kind of managed the team, managed the game. He didn't make costly mistakes. He made plays when he had to. That's all you really need out of Kyle, is for him to stay within the offense, stay within himself. If we were asking him to go out there and do like Brett Favre, throw for 350 yards a game, I'd be a little worried. But we're not. We're just asking for consistency and management, so I think we'll be all right."
The difference is that Dilfer was 28 and had six NFL seasons on his resume by the time he helped the Ravens to their title. He had been knocked around by the game and had discarded the bravado that comes with being a young hot-shot quarterback. He knew his place in the sport. Boller still is searching for his. He's 23, and still must fight the urge to try to zip heroic throws into tight spots.
"Being a young guy who likes to throw the ball a lot, it can be hard to try to hold back instead of forcing that in there," Boller said. "I think that just comes with experience. I'll do anything to win. Whatever the team needs me to do, that's what I'll do."
Quarterbacks drafted in the first round, like Boller, make too much money in today's NFL to sit on the bench for long. All four quarterbacks selected in the first round in the 2003 draft -- Cincinnati's Carson Palmer, Jacksonville's Byron Leftwich, Boller and Chicago's Rex Grossman -- are penciled in to be starters this season. Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis switched to Palmer even though Jon Kitna was among the league's most valuable players last season. The Jaguars jettisoned veteran Mark Brunell to clear the way for Leftwich.
The Ravens decided when last season ended that Boller would be their quarterback this year and, according to Newsome, they never wavered, even when the New York Giants released Kerry Collins and many in the league thought he would be reunited in Baltimore with former Giants coach Jim Fassel, now a consultant to Ravens Coach Brian Billick.
"He was progressing every week," Newsome said of Boller's rookie season. "He was better in Week 9 than he was in Week 1. He didn't get the opportunity to finish the season [because of a torn quadriceps that required surgery], but we felt like after he got eight games under his belt, he would take a big leap. So we'll get a chance to see that leap this year.
"We made a decision before the draft the year we drafted Kyle -- we were looking at Palmer, we were looking at Leftwich -- that we needed a young quarterback to help build this football team. For the first six years or seven years that we were here, we were patch-working it every year. We decided to get away from that philosophy. . . . The way this team is built right now, the quarterback doesn't have to carry the team. He's just got to be a part of it. . . . He's getting better. But we won't know until we get into November and December how well he's really done."
Terrell Owens, for one, doesn't believe that Boller will develop rapidly into a reliable passer. The wide receiver said Sunday one of the reasons he rejected a trade from the San Francisco 49ers to the Ravens in the offseason -- ending up with the Philadelphia Eagles -- was Baltimore's uncertain quarterback situation. The Ravens ranked last in the NFL in passing offense last season, and Boller had an AFC-worst passer rating of 62.4.
Boller said Tuesday he hadn't been aware of Owens's remarks, and shrugged them off after being told of them.
"He doesn't really know my situation," Boller said. "He can say what he wants. He has his own opinion. I hadn't seen that. He's a great player. He's been around. I'm sure a player of his caliber, I'm sure he wanted to go somewhere where he knew a guy was established. Everyone has their own opinion."
Still, he acknowledged that the pressure is on him because the Ravens have so many other parts in place. They have one of the league's best running backs (Jamal Lewis) and tight ends (Todd Heap). They managed to keep their offensive line intact, and Newsome recovered from the Owens debacle to keep the receiver corps from being a potential downfall by trading for Kevin Johnson. The Ray Lewis-led defense could be special.
"I'd say, for this time of the year, we're probably better than the team that won it," Ogden said. "We didn't even go to the playoffs the year before we won it. We were 8-8. We had a lot of veteran players but no playoff experience, no true expectations. We couldn't even say the word 'playoffs' until we got to Week 13. Now we're talking playoffs, Super Bowl. At this point, we're probably further ahead."
Said Boller: "There's a lot of pressure. I think every NFL quarterback has a lot of pressure. In my circumstances, with what we've got, I have to be very careful with the football. When the defense gets as many turnovers as we do, we can't be giving the ball right back. We just need to move the chains and score points. . . . I want to be an efficient quarterback. I'm trying not to force balls. I want to just be an accurate passer where I can move the chains. I think the thing last year was that I tried to force the ball where I didn't need to do it.
"Coming in as a rookie, you think you know everything, but you don't know everything. You don't know half the stuff. This year, I understand the offense a lot better. I can read defenses instead of just reading our offensive routes and trying to find the open guy. I'm taking the next step -- reading defenses, knowing where to go with the ball, the down and distance: 'It's third-and-6. Where do we need to go with the ball here?' Last year, I didn't have time to think of the down and distance. If it crossed my mind, okay, but I had to think of so many other things."
Windows of opportunity can close quickly in the NFL. The Ravens already have torn down their Super Bowl team, and rebuilt a good one. But what will their roster look like a year from now? Will they still have gifted cornerback Chris McAlister, their disgruntled franchise player now absent from camp? By the time Boller is ready to be a productive pro quarterback that the Ravens can turn loose, will Ray Lewis still be the sport's most dominant defender?
Some around the league say that if the Ravens had signed Collins, they would rate the club as a top Super Bowl contender, but with Boller as the starter there's just no way of knowing. Billick's formula, though, is that only two more completions per game will vault the Ravens into the middle of the league's passing-offense rankings, and that should be good enough, given the team's numerous other strengths.
"He's been here," Ogden said of Boller. "This is his second year now. If he was a rookie, it would be harder. Second-year guys tend to pick up things faster. He's light years ahead of where he was last year at this time. I'm not too worried about it, really. . . . We just try to keep people from hitting him. We're there for him. We give him encouragement. We say, 'We're with you. Let's get it done. We believe in you.' Encouragement goes a long way."
Someday, Boller might be Brett Favre. For now, the Ravens just need him to be Trent Dilfer.
"I feel like I definitely understand things a lot better," Boller said. "I'm still learning each day. Being a rookie is one thing. Being a second-year guy is another. I feel like I've made good strides. . . . This organization has done nothing but good things for me. They've supported me. I know they back me 100 percent. That's good to have the coaches feel that way. It makes me feel good about myself. Now I've got to hold up my end of the bargain."
Around the League
Best-selling author John Feinstein has been granted extensive access to the Ravens this season to write a book. But Billick said Tuesday that the presence of Feinstein, a Washington Post contributor, in training camp has been far less distracting than the behind-the-scenes presence of cameras a few summers ago when the Ravens were the subject of the HBO series "Hard Knocks."
"The cameras, you're always aware of," Billick said. "John is always here. He's like 'The Shadow.' " Billick was reminded by a Baltimore radio reporter that Bobby Knight ended up regretting the access he granted Feinstein to write "A Season On The Brink" about the famed college basketball coach, then at Indiana University, and his team.
Billick responded playfully: "I'm younger and stronger than Bobby. [Feinstein is] mindful of the fact I know where he lives and I know a lot of big people."
Brown Would Like Move to Dallas
No one should be surprised by wide receiver Tim Brown's departure from the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders can't blame their 4-12 record last season entirely on ousted coach Bill Callahan. They were an old, slow, creaky team, and they simply couldn't go into this season relying heavily upon a 41-year-old receiver (Jerry Rice) and a 38-year-old receiver (Brown) continuing to outrace time.
Coach Norv Turner is moving Jerry Porter into the starting lineup, and when owner Al Davis informed Brown during a meeting Tuesday that he would be the club's fourth or fifth receiver, Brown told teammates that his tenure with the team was about to end. Brown was drafted by the Raiders in 1988 and has 1,070 catches for 14,734 yards and 99 touchdowns in 16 NFL seasons. He said he would like to continue playing and finish his career in Dallas, his home town, if he can't finish it in Oakland. But it's unlikely that he would be more than the Cowboys' fourth receiver behind Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn and Antonio Bryant.
Jurevicius Expected to Be Out 2-6 Weeks
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers expected Joe Jurevicius to be sidelined for two to six weeks after the wide receiver underwent surgery Tuesday to have a herniated disk in his back repaired. . . . Wideout Keenan McCardell, a camp holdout, is asking to be traded or released. "He's a holdout and it doesn't look like he'll be in here any time soon," said coach Jon Gruden.
Ailing Foot Slows Wistrom
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Grant Wistrom likely will be sidelined about two weeks by an ailing foot. Wistrom -- signed as a free agent in the offseason to a six-year, $33-million contract that included a $14 million signing bonus -- has plantar fasciitis. . . .
Wide receiver Dennis Northcutt, who spent much of the offseason in a contract feud with the Cleveland Browns after he and agent Jerome Stanley missed a February deadline to void the remainder of his previous deal and make him a free agent, has been practicing with the starting offense because Andre Davis has been sidelined by a high ankle sprain. . . .
David Brandt, who entered the league with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted rookie, is working with the San Diego Chargers' first-team offense at center with Jason Ball holding out from camp in a contract dispute. . . .
Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota, Miami and the Giants are among the teams interested in Pete Kendall, the former starting center released by the Arizona Cardinals. . . .
Tennessee Titans linebacker Peter Simon is likely to miss the entire season because of torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee.
Cowboys Cut Quarterback Carter
The Dallas Cowboys released quarterback Quincy Carter today.
Carter was the Cowboys' starter last season and helped the team to 10 regular-season wins and a playoff appearance. But he was only the NFC's 11th-rated passer and the Cowboys looked to upgrade the position in the offseason, trading for youngster Drew Henson and signing veteran Vinny Testaverde as a free agent after he was released by the New York Jets.
Carter reportedly failed a recent drug test. The Cowboys likely will enter the season with Testaverde as their starter and Henson, who never has played an NFL game, as his backup.