- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2002

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Let's see what veteran quarterback Jeff Blake can do with the Baltimore Ravens' offense after a full week working with the first team.

Last Sunday, Blake was informed less than an hour before kickoff that he was starting for the first time in two years because of a back injury to Chris Redman. Despite tossing three interceptions two in the final 3:21 of garbage time Blake threw early and often and showed no signs of rust against the Pittsburgh Steelers' tough defense.

All told, Blake completed 29 of 50 for 298 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score. Blake's 50 attempts were the third most in franchise history and the second most the 31-year-old has thrown in a game.

"When you look at it, football is football it doesn't change," Blake said. "It never will. From high school to college to the pros, it just gets a little faster, that's all. It's still throwing, it's still running and blocking. Some people make the game a lot harder than it really is. It's not that hard. It's just how you execute and how you perform. If you're on, you're going to hit it. If you're off, you're off."

Blake, who is the godson of Montreal Expos outfielder Tim Raines and the brother-in-law of former Washington Redskins linebacker Robert Jones, certainly turned around the league's 30th-rated offense.

Blake distributed the ball to eight different receivers. Third-year wide receiver Travis Taylor, from whom the Ravens are patiently awaiting a return on their 2000 NFL Draft investment (10th overall), caught a career-high seven passes for 82 yards.

Given Taylor's lofty draft status and experience in coach Brian Billick's system, many expected him to be the Ravens' primary receiver and deep threat. That hasn't happened. Maybe with Blake at the helm, Taylor will get more balls thrown his way.

Comparing Blake and Redman, Taylor said, "It doesn't make much difference really. Jeff threw some good balls, and we did our job on the outside."

The last time Blake started a game was Nov.19, 2000, for New Orleans against Oakland. In that game, Blake suffered a fractured and dislocated foot, leading to the emergence of Aaron Brooks as the Saints' quarterback.

Billick's record with starting quarterbacks seven in 3½ seasons did not dissuade Blake from signing with the Ravens as an unrestricted free agent last April. Blake said he signed with the Ravens because he was friends with James Harris, pro personnel director, and Earnest Byner, director of player development.

Billick said the Ravens never guaranteed Blake, a former Pro Bowl pick, playing time this season during offseason contract negotiations. With Redman doubtful this Sunday at Atlanta (4-4), it's undoubtedly nice for Billick to have a quality veteran available.

"He knew what his situation was when he came in he was the backup," Billick said. "I made it very clear to him that we were going to commit to Chris Redman, and he understood the circumstances that it was going to take for him to get into the game."

Blake, the son of former CFL player Emory Blake, has passed for 17,497 yards and 107 touchdowns. While at East Carolina, Blake set or tied 32 school records and led the Pirates to an 11-1 mark his senior year and the school's highest ranking ever (ninth) in the final 1991 Associated Press poll.

Drafted in the sixth round (166th overall) by the New York Jets, Blake made a name for himself with Cincinnati for seven years (1994-2000). The Bengals acquired Blake on waivers, and he started nine games in his first year.

In 1995, Blake was elected to his only Pro Bowl. Throwing to talented receivers like Carl Pickens, Darnay Scott and tight end Tony McGee, Blake passed for 3,822 yards with 28 touchdowns and a 82.1 quarterback rating.

If Blake can generate victories, Billick may be forced to keep him as the starter. Usually first-teamers don't lose their jobs because of injury, but Redman has started just six games in his career and can't have job security with virtually no experience.

"I'm trying to help my team win regardless if this is my last next week or next week is my last week," Blake said. "Yeah, I want a starting job, but I can't look six months down the road. The only thing that matters how I go out and perform this Sunday and go out and throw 30 balls and complete 25 of them."

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