Tony Siragusa's weekly radio show is a glitzy, 90-minute spectacle that is broadcast from a mammoth suburban Baltimore sports bar. It's a Thursday-night event featuring the 340-pound Siragusa, a busty blonde sidekick named Nicky, cushy lounge chairs for fans and a special guest. Last week the guest was new Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac. It was an unfair pairing at first glance. Siragusa, a defensive tackle, is a crass, wisecracking wide-body from New Jersey. Grbac, sporting a blue visor that hid his eyes and sipping 7-Up, is a reticent Ohioan who prefers finding a quiet booth in the back to working the room.
"I remember when I first met Elvis," Siragusa said as the show opened. "I told him, 'I'm a world champion, and you're not.' "
Grbac smiled, and after recalling his Super Bowl memories as a backup with the San Francisco 49ers in 1994, said, "Remember what I told you?" Siragusa whirled his head in Grbac's direction. "I got my ring before you did," Grbac reminded him. Siragusa chuckled, his guest settled in, and somewhere a producer was thinking, This won't be so bad after all.
"I didn't think Elvis would talk that much," Siragusa said after the show. "I thought I would have to lob Softball questions at him, but he stayed right with it. I think he's comfortable with Baltimore, too. I can see he knows how to fit in."
The same Grbac who zinged Siragusa was equally at ease as the centerpiece of the Ravens' offense in a 17-6 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. He threaded passes into tight coverage. He danced in the pocket, buying time behind a line that didn't allow a sack, and made sound decisions with the ball. He was the efficient quarterback that Baltimore had envisioned when it signed him to a five-year, $30 million free-agent deal last March.
Grbac was at his best on a 72-yard drive late in the first half, after the Bears had controlled the ball for more than 21 minutes with a quick-hitting passing game. Starting at his 10 with 1:06 left before intermission, Grbac completed 6 of 7 passes (the lone misfire was a spike, to kill the clock), for 52 yards, in setting up Matt Stover's 37-yard field goal, which tied the score 3-3. Grbac also engineered an 87-yard, third-quarter drive that he capped with a six-yard touchdown toss to fullback Sam Gash to put the Ravens ahead 10-6. That was enough of a lead for Baltimore's defense, which held Chicago to three first downs in the second half.
"This was a good first step for this offense," Grbac said, after completing 24 of 30 passes for 262 yards and the one touchdown. "We can be better in a lot of areas—running, passing and converting on third downs—but we could've gone south or caved under the expectations. We made our adjustments, and we did enough to win."
As much as the Ravens want to achieve balance between passing and running, it appears that Grbac will have to carry the attack because the ground game is virtually nonexistent. Primary back Terry Allen (20 carries, 37 yards, one touchdown) looked like the 33-year-old journeyman with two reconstructed knees that he is. Until Baltimore summoned him on Aug. 11, after Jamal Lewis tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in training camp, Allen was unemployed and had figured on spending the fall watching high school and college games in and around his hometown of Commerce, Ga. Jason Brookins, a 25-year-old free-agent picked up during the off-season, handled the ball once.
Unless newly signed Moe Williams produces a lot more than the 195 yards he amassed in five seasons as a Minnesota Vikings reserve, the Ravens will have to rely on five-and 10-yard tosses from Grbac to move the chains, even when the offense wants to kill the clock. "I'd rather not throw the ball 40 to 50 times a game, because traditionally that approach hasn't been successful," says coach Brian Billick. "But with Elvis we can do that if we have to."
Grbac won over his receivers by spreading the ball around—nine players caught passes against the Bears—and trusting each of them to do his job. During one preseason game, wideout Qadry Ismail watched backup quarterback Chris Redman give up on throwing to Travis Taylor on a crossing pattern. When Ismail asked Grbac if he would wait for him to break open in the same situation, Grbac replied that he would. His accuracy, especially on short and intermediate passes, has also earned him praise. "I know that on a couple of plays I was right on my guy, and he laid the ball in there," said Chicago cornerback R.W McQuarters. "When a guy does that, you throw up your hands."