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Leftwich, Boller Linked by '03 Draft

November 13, 2005|From Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Baltimore Ravens wanted quarterback Byron Leftwich in the 2003 draft. They even tried to trade up to get him.

But after reaching an agreement with Minnesota to move up three spots -- just ahead of Jacksonville -- the Ravens had trouble finalizing the deal with the league and time expired on the clock.

The Jaguars quickly jumped on Leftwich, and the Ravens ended up with Kyle Boller.

"They'll be compared for their entire careers as long as they're with their respective teams," Baltimore Coach Brian Billick said.

The comparisons might be most evident today when the Jaguars (5-3) host the fading Ravens (2-6), who have lost three in a row and seven consecutive road games.

Boller returns to the starting lineup for the first time since getting hurt in the season opener against Indianapolis. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 141 yards with an interception before leaving in the third quarter with a hyperextended toe on his right foot.

Anthony Wright started the last seven games in his place, but wasn't able to get the offense out of a season-long slump. Jamal Lewis has averaged 3.0 yards a carry, and the Ravens haven't scored more than 19 points in any game.

Maybe Boller can provide a spark.

"There's pressure, obviously, but I see it as an opportunity," Boller said. "I just want to go out there and be the quarterback that I know I can be. It was frustrating getting hurt that first game. Luckily, my toe has gotten better and I'm going to have the chance to pick up where I left off."

Billick expects Boller will need some time to get up to speed.

"It would be a little naive to think that after sitting for eight weeks that there wouldn't be some of that rust," Billick said. "The game's going to be a little fast to start, but he's got to be on a fast curve. We need for him to come in and energize the team and continue on with the growth that we saw in him last year that got caught short with the injury this year in the first game."

Boller has completed nearly 55 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns and 21 interceptions since the Ravens selected him with the 19th overall pick. He also has missed 14 starts because of injuries, including seven as a rookie.

Leftwich has stayed much healthier, missing just two games last season. He has 40 touchdowns and 31 interceptions.

He played his best half of football last week against Houston. He was 11 of 11 for 162 yards and led the Jags on three consecutive scoring drives after halftime to eke out a 21-14 victory.

So how different would things be if the Ravens had completed the trade with Minnesota and drafted Leftwich?

"It's too hard to wonder what would have happened if you would have been on another team," Leftwich said. "We all know what happened that day, but in reality, it all worked out for the best because I'm happy here. I love it here.

"When you're coming out of the draft, you don't care who picks you. You just want the team that drafts you to want you."

Leftwich has the Jaguars in position to make a run at their first postseason appearance since 1999. A win against the Ravens would put them a step closer. It also would come against the league's second-ranked defense, but one missing linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed.

"It is different when [those two] aren't out there because we're talking about Pro Bowlers, we're talking about guys who are the best at their positions." Leftwich said. "I'm quite sure they miss those guys, but they haven't missed a beat. The guys they have in there are not Ray Lewis or Ed Reed, but they're still going out there and having success as a defense."

The Jaguars, meanwhile, likely will be without running back Fred Taylor. He aggravated a right ankle injury against the Texans and is listed as doubtful.

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