The mystery surrounding the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback competition remains unsolved.<p>
Under the magnifying glass of tonight's preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium, the performance of incumbent passer Chris Redman may reveal several clues.
Ravens coach Brian Billick has guarded his analysis of who's leading between Redman, talented rookie Kyle Boller and veteran Anthony Wright in a manner akin to the government's stance on national security.
He smirks when people attempt to pry into what he'll ultimately decide about quarterback and is intentionally coy regarding his delegation of snaps.
Billick hasn't declared a starter although Redman has taken the majority of the work with the first offense during training camp. He's also listed first on the depth chart.
Regardless, Redman is no longer the uncontested owner of the job following a back injury that derailed him last season after six starts and required surgery.
Beginning with an 8 p.m. kickoff against a Bills defense led by linebackers Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher, Redman begins battling for his job entering his fourth season.
"Pressure is just a part of an NFL player's life," Redman said. "You just have to learn to handle it, especially with a quarterback. It just goes with the job.
"I'm not going to do anything different. I'm just going to try to go through my reads, make some good decisions and put the ball in the end zone."
Redman's status became endangered by a combination of factors:
His since-repaired herniated disc.
Boller's first-round status, superior arm strength and mobility along with Baltimore trading next year's first-round pick and this year's second-round pick to the New England Patriots to draft him 19th overall.
And the fact that the protégé of the late Colts Hall of Fame signal caller Johnny Unitas will become an unrestricted free agent following this season.
"This preseason game is going to be big for Chris," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "He feels good about himself, which is a key. So, I think that the next step for him is game time."
Redman said his back no longer bothers him.
The twinges of pain and loss of circulation have vanished, and the velocity on his spirals and his movement have improved markedly. Redman's lack of flexibility in his lower body has been alleviated by the surgery.
"He feels really good," Cavanaugh said. "His weight is down. His flexibility is back to where it was probably when he was in high school.
"The thing about Chris is his desire. He wants to be successful and he works at it. He's not very vocal, but he does his work. I think the guys appreciate that about him."
Still, this is a proving ground for Redman. His 3-3 record, 1,034 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions are all in the past.
Redman, 26, has to prove himself again, including his ability to absorb contact to his back.
"I feel a lot better than I thought I was going to at this point," Redman said. "I'm not feeling any discomfort at all."
Billick said the starter will play the entire first quarter, the second quarterback will go until halftime and the third quarterback will handle the second half.
As for his criteria for evaluating Redman, Billick said: "Chris has to do what his strengths are. He knows the offense. He has to show a certain amount of efficiency. He has to move the team, all of them do, but they'll do it in their own way.
"Anthony will do it with his arm strength, his athleticism, as will Kyle. Chris needs to be efficient obviously, because that's a big part of his game."
Boller, 22, didn't help his cause by missing most of the first week as a contract holdout.
The former Cal star is experiencing the usual rookie growing pains, showing some of the inaccuracy that typified his first three years on the Berkeley campus.
"The physical tools are showing that we knew he had," Cavanaugh said. "What I'm excited about is the way he is handling the terminology. He's a leader. He motivates."
Wright's best attributes are his tight spirals and his experience with the Cowboys and Steelers, but he has committed too many mental errors.
Also, Wright, 27, has a career accuracy of 46.4 percent and a quarterback rating of 50.8.
"It's difficult for him because sometimes he feels like the odd man out with all the reps that Chris and Kyle are getting," Cavanaugh said. "But he is getting his fair share of the work."
Redman has been complimentary of Boller and Wright and hasn't complained about having to earn his position back after relinquishing his grip due to an injury.
Every day after practice, Redman circles the fields at McDaniel College. He's a solitary figure jogging, he hopes, toward regaining control of his career.
"I feel confident in myself," Redman said. "I think the players are confident in me, and hopefully the coaches are, too."
Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.