The roads to McDaniel College in Westminster were jammed on Friday evening, filled with cars of purple-clad fans eager to see the Baltimore Ravens take the field for a controlled scrimmage. It was their first chance to check out the defending AFC North champions.
A record crowd -- estimated at nearly 17,000 -- sat on the hills surrounding the field at Bair Stadium and cheered every Ray Lewis hit and every Kyle Boller pass.
The white team -- the offense -- "won" the scrimmage under the modified scoring system, 23-19, thanks to a 17-yard touchdown pass from rookie Josh Harris to second-year tight end Daniel Wilcox on the last play.
The defense came up with two interceptions (cornerback Raymond Walls picked off a Kordell Stewart pass, and rookie linebacker John Garrett grabbed a Harris pass that bounced off of Chester Taylor's hands) and two sacks. The white team scored a touchdown on two of the eight series.
Jamal Lewis, who rushed for the second-most yards in NFL history last season, played in just the first series, carried the ball twice (for no yards) and caught one pass (for no yards). Backups Taylor and Musa Smith had the bulk of the carries, and both responded well: Taylor finished with 50 yards on eight carries, and Smith had the longest run of the night, a 23-yarder that set up his one-yard touchdown dive.
Boller was efficient, completing 10 of 13 passes for 110 yards, though he failed to take the offense into the end zone in the three series he played.
Still, it was a solid performance from a second-year quarterback that had the lowest completion percentage (51.8) among AFC passers in 2003.
"Good. Smooth, understood, was under control," Coach Brian Billick said of Boller. "He understood what he needed to do. The same with Kordell. I think he did very, very well. Josh, as well. I think all three quarterbacks played very well. . . . I think all three guys showed a certain amount of efficiency, of understanding what they needed to do."
Boller has worked hard in the offseason to improve his mechanics and to build stronger relationships with his receivers. He spent a good deal of time during the offseason in Owings Mills, Md., throwing with his wideouts, particularly Travis Taylor. Boller connected with Taylor twice, and overthrew him once on a deep pass down the left side. But Boller seemed happy with his performance.
"That was the main thing, I want to be efficient," Boller said. "I want to move the ball and stuff. The main thing is that I've been really working on my mechanics and fundamentals, and I wanted to, under a game situation, really concentrate on good fundamentals."
As a rookie a year ago, Boller didn't participate in the intrasquad scrimmage because he didn't sign his contract until a few days into training camp.
He won the starting job by the end of camp, and played in nine games before suffering a quadriceps injury that essentially ended his season. Not only does Boller feel more comfortable this year, but he thinks that his teammates are more comfortable with him.
"I sure hope so," Boller said. "I feel like it. I feel like I have little more command in the huddle, I feel they trust me a little more. I understand the offense better. I still have a long ways to go, so I've got to build on today."