Between the laudatory compliments from his new teammates, the standing ovation
he received from adoring fans and a replica statue of his likeness in the
stands, it was rock-star treatment for the three-time Pro Bowl passer.
“It’s new hope now that Steve is here,” tight end Daniel Wilcox said. “He has
veteran savvy and has been to a Super Bowl. We’re proud to have him on this
The buzz surrounding McNair enlivened a vocal crowd of 2,530 at the morning
practice, and he appeared to equally feed off their energy. Thirty minutes
before practice began at 10:30 a.m., McNair made the rounds and high-fived
several fans along the sidelines.
“The fans have been magnificent since I’ve been here,” McNair said. “I’ve been
hearing a lot of things and it was a warm welcome for me to be a Raven.”
Since McNair replaced erratic former starter Kyle Boller, the perception of the
Ravens’ prospects have evolved with some national observers earmarking the team
as a potential challenger to the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers and AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals.
It’s a major change for a football team that finished 6-10 a year ago and failed
to win a road game.
Acquiring McNair in a trade from the Tennessee Titans and signing him to a $32
million contract has changed the complexion of the team even for grizzled
veterans who have heard for years that the offense was going to be better and
instead have observed substandard quarterbacks.
“I’ve been here 11 years now, and we’ve been through quarterback, quarterback,
quarterback,” middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. “It’s one thing to bring in a
quarterback and say he’s going to have a great future. It’s another thing to
bring in a quarterback who’s proven.
“We’re talking about a guy two years removed from being an MVP. He’s one of
those guys that the defense says, ‘Oh, yeah, we love him.’”
McNair’s understandably rusty showing Friday didn’t resemble his Co-MVP form in
He misfired the football outside when former Titans teammate Derrick Mason cut
inside. He muscled his throws with a lot of extra velocity, appearing overly
pumped up at times.
His best throw was a tightly-delivered spiral to tight end Todd Heap on a seam
route that split the secondary and outside linebacker Adalius Thomas. Thomas got
even by intercepting McNair during the afternoon session.
Speaking in his soft-spoken Mississippi drawl, McNair took a low-key approach to
“I’m not trying to be Superman,” McNair said. “I’m just going to play my style
of game. You win with balance, having a good defense and a good offense. I’m not
saying we’re going to be an explosive offense, but we will methodically run this
thing and execute.
“It’s about taking the pressure off the defense, so they can be well-rested in
the fourth quarter. That was my goal coming in and it’s going to continue to be
throughout the season.”
The primary reason the Ravens moved up the start of camp from Monday was to give
McNair an additional four practices to aid his learning curve with a new
“He’s a smart guy,” Mason said. “I don’t look for there to be any problem at
picking up this offense.”
McNair seems to be assimilating fairly well after spending the summer in an
accelerated cram course with offensive coordinator Jim Fassel. However, he
acknowledged there's still a lot left to learn.
“I’m about 60-70 percent as far as getting out there and running with the first
team,” McNair said. “I’m not at the point where I want to be, but that’s what
training camp is for.
"I’m very comfortable calling the plays. It’s not going to happen overnight, but
I’m going to be patient and learn every practice. I’ve made big strides.”
Plus, Mason can act as McNair’s personal cheat sheet in the huddle. The close
friends played together for eight seasons in Tennessee, connecting for 29
“Derrick has been a great help,” McNair said. “He’s a guy I’ve been familiar
with for a long time. At this point, it’s just about me learning the other guys.
“It’s all about what you put into it. I think it’s all about the individual. If
you want to excel fast, you can do that.”
For over a decade, the Ravens have endured mediocrity, or worse, under center
regardless of which individual was taking the snap. After missing the playoffs
the past two seasons, they hope they’ve finally identified the missing link in
their elusive quest to return to the Super Bowl.
McNair insisted Friday that he’s not a savior, but does plan on speaking up if
the offense isn’t meeting his standard.
“I’m not a guy who’s going to yell, I’m not a guy who’s going to fight or
anything like that,” McNair said. “I’m a guy that is just going to tell you what
I expect and where I expect you to be.”
Aaron Wilson writes for Ravens Insider and the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
If you are reading this article via a news portal, you can find the
original on RavensInsider.Com