Despite all of his considerable experience, including shouldering his team to
within a yard of a potential Super Bowl title, sharing MVP honors with Peyton Manning three years ago and the grit of undergoing six major surgeries, McNair
is far from nonchalant about what tonight means to him personally.
The Baltimore Ravens’ new franchise quarterback acknowledged that his debut at
M&T Bank Stadium against the New York Giants will be accompanied by two dueling
“I’m very excited, a little nervous, but that’s part of it,” McNair said. “At
the same time, I’ve been doing this a long time. I think after the first play,
things will settle down and I’ll be back to normal.
“The most important thing is execution while you are out there and getting some
rhythm going early. During the plays that I’m going to be out there, I want to
look sharp and crisp.”
Those aren’t two adjectives normally associated with the Ravens’ litany of past
The Ravens are banking on McNair emerging as a major exception to the rule. They
traded a fourth-round draft pick to the Tennessee Titans in June to acquire
McNair, who signed a $32 million contract and immediately supplanted erratic
former starter Kyle Boller.
Sporting quiet confidence and a calm demeanor, the 12-year professional's skills
will be displayed for just an abbreviated time period against the Giants.
Ravens coach Brian Billick has scripted the starters for 15 to 20 snaps, or
roughly the entire first quarter. He has a specific agenda for McNair, who
settled down after a rough start in a scrimmage Saturday against the Washington Redskins where his second pass was intercepted by linebacker Marcus Washington
and returned for a touchdown.
“Articulate the offense,” said Billick, outlining his goal sheet for McNair. “I
expect a check or two, pick up a blitz or two and just execute the game plan
“If it’s one drive, it’s one drive. We’re getting more and more like baseball
with a pitch count: 15 or 20 snaps.”
McNair appears to have grasped the offense quickly. He no longer has to consult
his teammates in the huddle or use wide receiver Derrick Mason as a constant
The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback went through a crash course of summer school
with offensive coordinator Fassel, who cut short his Montana vacation to get
McNair up to speed.
“So far, Steve has picked up everything pretty good,” said Fassel, the former
Giants head coach. “He’s definitely lived up to all our expectations. It’s not
surprising to see him pick things up fast. Steve kind of knows what’s coming.
“Now, I want to see it under game conditions. This is the first time where a
quarterback is live where they have to take that hit and get back up, or avoid a
guy and make a throw. He’s got to get into the flow.”
McNair went out of his way to emphasize that he’s not a one-man gang and that
defenses will need to account for several teammates, including Mason, tight end
Todd Heap, running backs Jamal Lewis and Mike Anderson and receiver Mark Clayton.
“Well, they can worry about me, but the 10 other guys are still accountable,
too, and I think that’s the thing that other people don’t understand,” McNair
said. “We have great athletes on this offensive unit. You look at those guys and
wonder: Who do you prepare for? Who do you try to stop?
“When you have everyone on the same page on this offense that we’re going to
have, it’s hard to prepare for me and it’s hard to prepare for any guy on this
Although the Ravens won’t be competing against Giants linebacker LaVar Arrington, who’s out with a knee injury, McNair is eager to test himself and
this offense against a defense that features Pro Bowl defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.
This game will also likely mark the first contact McNair has absorbed since
playing in the Pro Bowl in February as quarterbacks aren’t allowed to be hit
“The first preseason game is always the most important,” McNair said. “You want
to go out there and have a good showing. You don’t quite worry about the hits.
"You just worry about the execution and how crisp and sharp you are. The most
important thing is to get a sense of where we are, what we need to work on and
what we need to continue to do.”
Aaron Wilson writes for Ravens Insider and the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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