What a journey it has been for Stoney Case.
Six weeks ago, he was out of a job after being released by the Indianapolis Colts. When he arrived in Baltimore, Ravens Coach Brian Billick struggled to say his name correctly, calling him "Stone Casey." This Sunday, he will make his first start this season at quarterback.
"I've always kept confidence in myself, waiting out the right opportunity," said Case, 27. "Finally, hopefully, it's arrived."
Now in his fifth NFL season, the 6-foot-3, 206-pound Case will be playing in just his sixth game and making only his second career start Sunday when the Ravens host Cleveland. Until this past weekend, when he rallied Baltimore against Pittsburgh after stepping in for Scott Mitchell, he had not played in a game since Oct. 19, 1997.
Billick elevated Case to starter this week after Mitchell struggled to move the offense the past two games, both losses. Billick said Case has what it takes to be an effective and productive NFL quarterback.
"The question now is does the whole equal the sum of the parts?" Billick said. "You've seen it time and again. Guys have everything you want -- size, height, speed, vision, arm strength, intelligence -- just doesn't add up to be a quarterback. There are others who don't have quite that combination, but they are great quarterbacks. . . . We're giving him an opportunity. If indeed he gets to hit his stride here and utilize all those abilities, we could have a [heck] of a quarterback."
Case, whose mother named him after a fictional cowboy, Stoney Burke, from her favorite television show in the 1960s, was drafted by Arizona in the third round of the 1995 draft and spent three seasons with the Cardinals. The arrival of quarterback Jake Plummer and the departure of coach Buddy Ryan altered Case's future there.
He thought he had found a good situation when Indianapolis signed him earlier this year to a two-year contract to back up Peyton Manning. But the Colts cut him on Aug. 11 after he completed 5 of 6 passes for 59 yards and threw one interception in a preseason game.
Baltimore signed Case on Aug. 17 and made him the number three quarterback behind Mitchell and Tony Banks. Case distinguished himself by quickly picking up Billick's offense. He twice engineered late scoring drives that helped the Ravens win two preseason games.
"This offense took me six months to learn," running back Errict Rhett said. "Ever since [the new coaching staff] came, I've got to look at my play book two hours a night. This guy learned this offense in a matter of two days. . . . To come in here, learn this system that fast and not be back there worrying, panicking, that's something special."
Qadry Ismail, who caught Case's first NFL touchdown pass, said there is more than an obvious difference between the right-handed Case and the left-handed Mitchell.
"Scott does throw a different ball than Stoney," Ismail said. "Stoney doesn't have a wind-up type throw. He just sets it and throws it more from the shoulder."
Case is also a more fiery leader than Mitchell. When he came into the huddle for the first time last Sunday, Case was animated, slapping high-fives with his teammates.
"He didn't come into the huddle like a regular quarterback, `Now, okay, let me see what I can do,' " Rhett said. "He came in there pumped up, ready to play, break it down. He was like, `Hey, I don't have anything to do with what just happened. There's a new man in here. I'm going to run this thing.' He did a great job."
Ravens Notes: Mitchell spoke to the media today for the first time since he was demoted. "I'm disappointed this has happened," he said. "I didn't play good. We're 0-2. I just didn't get the job done. . . . I'm going to just do everything I can to keep myself sharp and support the other guys. Hopefully, I'll get another chance to get back in there and make something different happen." . . .
Rhett is expected to start in place of Priest Holmes against Cleveland. Holmes underwent tests on his right knee and did not practice today. He is listed as doubtful for Sunday. . . . The Ravens re-signed linebacker Jeff Kopp and released tight end Lovett Purnell. Kopp had been released on Sept. 5 in the final roster cut.