- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 22, 2001

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Shannon Sharpe says Baltimore Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac is no Tony Banks. Good thing, too.

Sharpe called Grbac the real deal in training camp, and the NFL's all-time reception leader by a tight end said the Ravens have more confidence in Grbac than they did in former starter Banks, who is now the Washington Redskins' starting quarterback.

"Everybody in [the locker room] feels Elvis is the guy that can get us back to New Orleans [for Super Bowl XXXVI]," Sharpe said. "We struggled so bad last year by not scoring a touchdown [in five consecutive midseason games] that it got to the point that we didn't that feel Tony could get the job done. I know I didn't. I have the most credentials [three Super Bowl rings] on the offense. I've been around great players. Elvis can be a great player in this league. If we do a better job of protecting him and he does a better job of protecting the ball, we're going to be fine."

Sharpe didn't retract his disparaging remarks about Grbac after Sunday's disastrous 27-17 home loss to the Cleveland Browns. After that game, Sharpe said, "He was brought here to do a job, and the job is not getting done. Elvis has to be the guy who pulls the trigger. The organization spent a lot of money on him. Right now, I'm very disappointed in the offense's performance. [Ravens coach] Brian [Billick] feels this is the guy we've got to ride with, so we're going to ride with him."

Sharpe said he spoke with Grbac earlier in the week and cleared the air on how his comments may have been interpreted.

"[Sharpe] being a veteran guy like myself, we understand and a game like that, everybody is frustrated," Grbac said. "Things will be said just out of frustration. Shannon and I talked and had a really good talk, and we understand what we need to do to help this team win. The things that come out are going to come out. Sometimes it's good to kind of vent your frustration a little bit, because you get that out in the open and everybody understands where they sit."

On Monday, Billick issued a gag order to his team to refrain from talking about Grbac's troubles. The gag order didn't stop Sharpe from giving Grbac a vote of confidence.

"If I support Elvis, then no one on the offensive side should question my judgment, because I have the numbers to back it up, I have the most credentials," Sharpe said. "If I stand up and say, 'Hey, this is the guy that we're going to win with and can win with,' nobody should have anything else to say about that open and shut. And if I didn't feel that way, Brian can have a gag rule and he can tape my mouth, and I'll write it on a sheet of paper and tell you that I don't believe in the guy."

Last March, the Ravens signed Grbac to a five-year, $30 million deal to make the offense more explosive. That hasn't happened. Grbac, who has 13 interceptions to nine touchdowns, is just two interceptions shy of matching his career high of 15 in 1999 with the Kansas City Chiefs.

In the AFC, only Cincinnati's Jon Kitna (68.9) and Kansas City's Trent Green (62.6) have a lower quarterback rating than Grbac's 69.5. Last year with the Chiefs, Grbac passed for 4,169 yards with 28 touchdowns and was named to the Pro Bowl.

With the Ravens, Grbac has had to adjust to a new system, his receivers aren't that good, the Ravens have virtually no running game and the right side of their offensive line is nothing short of a disaster. All these factors have contributed to his subpar season and his 4-4 record as the starter.

"As a coach, you just have to say, 'How can I help to prevent this?' and you look at all aspects of it," Billick said. "I'm excited about where we are going to go from here. There's going to be some things we do structurally to try to help minimize putting him at risk, because we may have done that a little bit. I have a great deal of faith in Elvis Grbac, and I have a great deal of faith in this team."

Just look across the league, how many teams are having this type of discussion? To pin it on a single player or a single aspect of the game, just isn't valid."

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