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Jump Aboard the NFL's Quarterback Carousel

July 21, 2002|SAM FARMER

NFL training camps begin this week. That can only mean two-a-day practices, mind-numbing meetings and, in what has become a rite of summer, a new starting quarterback in Baltimore.

Chris Redman is the latest Raven savior and the team's sixth starting quarterback in six seasons, following Vinny Testaverde, Jim Harbaugh, Tony Banks, Trent Dilfer and Elvis Grbac.

If Redman can't cut it, Jeff Blake is waiting in the wings.

Quarterback might be a revolving-door position for the Ravens, but they are not alone. There is potential for at least one new starting quarterback in all eight divisions of the realigned league.

The Ravens are in the AFC North, as are the Cincinnati Bengals, who have added Gus Frerotte to the quarterback mix. He is expected to compete for the starting job with Jon Kitna. And who knows what will happen to Akili Smith, the No. 3 pick three years ago, who so far has been nothing short of a colossal bust.

In the AFC South, the expansion Houston Texans are convinced top pick David Carr is the right man for the job. He probably will not begin the season as the starter, however, instead backing up 11-year veteran Kent Graham for a while. Many onlookers think that is the smartest move.

"You pay guys a lot of money, the natural tendency is to try to get your pound of flesh," said ESPN analyst Joe Theismann, a former Pro Bowl quarterback. "But I also think with a young quarterback in particular, you stick him out into this environment and you can scar him for life mentally."

Then, every century or so, a Tom Brady comes along. Brady didn't get the starting job in New England last season until Drew Bledsoe went down in the second game and the Patriots already looked to be circling the drain.

But the team rallied around Brady, who wound up leading them to their first championship and strolled away with Super Bowl MVP honors.

Proving he can take a hint, Bledsoe moved on to AFC East rival Buffalo, where he will try to resurrect the struggling Bills.

In Miami, Ray Lucas will temporarily take over the starting quarterback job for Jay Fiedler, who will sit out training camp because of hip surgery.

John Butler, general manager of the AFC West's San Diego Chargers, came from Buffalo and last season loaded the roster with former players from the Bills.

So it stands to reason that, like the 2002 Bills, the Chargers also have a Drew B. angling for the quarterback job. That Charger is second-year quarterback Drew Brees, who probably will replace Doug Flutie sooner rather than later.

Seattle is now in the NFC West, and Coach Mike Holmgren will hand the starting quarterback job to Dilfer, who went 4-0 in replacing struggling Matt Hasselbeck last season.

There could be two new starting quarterbacks in the NFC North, the former black-and-blue division. Mike McMahon is penciled in as the starter in Detroit, although he is only keeping the job warm for No. 3 pick Joey Harrington. And in Chicago, newly acquired Chris Chandler will challenge Jim Miller for the starting job.

In Washington, two of Coach Steve Spurrier's four quarterbacks played at Florida--a shocker--but he says neither Shane Matthews nor Danny Wuerffel has been promised the starting job. Spurrier says the new quarterback could just as easily be Sage Rosenfels or rookie Patrick Ramsey, which cannot be soothing news to Redskin fans.

Meanwhile, Coach Jon Gruden's roster in Tampa Bay is loaded with experienced quarterbacks. The Buccaneers, now in the NFC South, have starter Brad Johnson and backups Shaun King and Rob Johnson. All three have not only been NFL starters, but have started playoff games.

With Chandler in Chicago, the fate of the Atlanta offense rests squarely in the hands of quarterback Michael Vick, the first pick in the 2001 draft.

Vick has astounding arm strength and dazzling speed. He should provide some thrilling highlights. If things don't work out for Vick in Atlanta, all is not lost.

There's always Baltimore.

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