In the huddle he gathers his teammates close, tightening the circle of players in a way that would make his father, a longtime high school coach, proud. He barks signals with authority and, knowing all eyes are focused on him, doesn't let his head drop or his shoulders slump whenever he makes a mistake. For while there are plenty of uncertainties about Chris Redman, he at least understands the importance of an NFL quarterback's body language.
Entering his third season with only three pass attempts to his credit, Redman has much to prove. What's more, he takes over the Ravens' offense at perhaps the worst possible time. Salary-cap constraints cost Baltimore its top two receivers from last year—tight end Shannon Sharpe and wide receiver Qadry Ismail—and decimated its once-dominant defense.
One of the few things Redman has going for him is that he's not following in the footsteps of any legends. "Getting used to a new quarterback is nothing new around here," says All-Pro tackle Jonathan Ogden. "I've played with six starters in six years—Vinny Testaverde, Jim Harbaugh, Tony Banks, Scott Mitchell, Trent Dilfer and Elvis Grbac. I don't know if Redman will stick, but I think he has what it takes."
At least Brian Billick, who started six players at quarterback in his first three seasons as coach, won't be asking too much of Redman. Using the formula that produced a Super Bowl tide two seasons ago, Baltimore will rely on workhorse running back Jamal Lewis, who is coming off reconstructive knee surgery that sidelined him for all of last season, and the defense, which will be expected to keep the game close. Even Redman says, "If I have a completion percentage around 60 percent and I don't force anything, I think Coach Billick will be pleased."
Redman played under his dad, Bob, at Male High in Louisville, then stayed close to home for college. During his four-year career at the University of Louisville he set Division I-A career records for completions and attempts. The Ravens snapped him up in the third round of the 2000 draft.
Baltimore coaches used training camp as an opportunity to school Redman in the basics. They drilled him on fronts, coverages, everything imaginable. Redman has also received pointers from his predecessors. Dilfer taught him to remind teammates of their responsibilities while in the huddle. Grbac showed him tapes of Joe Montana's footwork. Randall Cunningham offered advice on how to stay cool under pressure. Redman also learned from watching some of those guys fail, especially Grbac, who tossed 18 interceptions against 15 touchdowns last season and then abruptly retired after refusing to restructure his contract.
"Chris has not seen a guy be successful at that position for a couple of years, and I wish he'd had that," says offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh. "Then again, he's seen our frustrations with the other guys who've been here and watched us chew them out, so he's aware of what we expect from him and how he'll be treated."
Given their recent history, and the fact that they didn't re-sign Cunningham, the Ravens needed insurance at quarterback. They picked up free agent Jeff Blake, an 11-year veteran who spent the past two seasons with the Saints. As Billick points out, it's not unusual to have a battle-tested backup at quarterback, but he also realizes that Redman—who didn't impress early in camp—is an NFL neophyte, and the Ravens could suffer from his growing pains. Blake might become a better option.
"Chris needs experience, and that won't come after four preseason games," Billick says. "It may take a whole year to find out where he fits into our puzzle. He has the attributes to be a good quarterback, but this is the one position where you can never tell how good someone will be. You don't really know until you see him play."
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