- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2003

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s bad enough the Denver Broncos had to scrape the rust off quarterback Danny Kanell. Now the Broncos journeyman may be questionable for today’s game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T; Bank Stadium.

Kanell came down with flu-like symptoms and missed Friday’s practice He was given intravenous fluids and it’s uncertain if he will play today.

If that’s the case, re-signed quarterback Jarious Jackson, who said he is also coming down with a cold, will start and wide receiver Rod Smith will serve as the Broncos’ backup quarterback. Like Smith, Jackson has never started an NFL game.

“I really don’t know,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan told the Rocky Mountain News of Kanell’s availability after Friday’s final tuneup for the Ravens. “He’s got a touch of the flu, and we’ll see how he is in a couple days.”

Either way, the Broncos (5-2) have a problem right now at quarterback. Both Kanell and Jackson were cut in training camp when Shanahan decided to keep two quarterbacks — starter Jake Plummer and 38-year-old backup Steve Beuerlein.

Atlanta was Kanell’s last stop in 2000, but he made a name for himself with the New York Giants during the 1997 and 1998 seasons — starting 10 games — as he led the Giants to the NFC East title with eight wins and a tie. He lost his job to Kent Graham in 1998.

Kanell, 29, was re-signed by the Broncos after Week2 and served as the team’s third quarterback on the inactive list. When Plummer broke his left foot against the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs in Week5, Kanell was elevated to back up Beuerlein.

Kanell replaced Beuerlein in the third quarter of last week’s 28-20 loss at the undefeated Minnesota Vikings after the latter broke the pinky on his throwing hand. Beuerlein’s season and his career could be over.

In his first NFL action since November 2000, Kanell completed 12 of 18 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, but was unable to rally the Broncos to victory on the road.

Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis remembers Kanell from their college days when Lewis was at Miami and Kanell was Bobby Bowden’s gunslinger at Florida State.

Lewis wasn’t particularly overwhelmed by Kanell then and didn’t even know he was still in the league. The Ravens (3-3) will hope their ninth-ranked defense can keep Kanell confused.

“I played him in 1994 and 1995, he was all right, but nothing special,” Lewis said. “If we were playing them in Denver, I would say yeah [he would be effective], they could probably have some success with a lot of checkoffs, but coming to Baltimore is hard.

“With how loud our crowd is going to be, there’s not going to be too many checkoffs. I don’t think they are going to make him think that much. We’re going to come after him and see if he can read defenses and still play football.”

Kanell, who was out of football for two seasons [2001-02], played minor league baseball with the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League and batted around .250, and played Arena League Football for the New York Dragons last year waiting for the NFL to call.

“It’s very strange,” Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe said. “I don’t think in my 14 years that I have ever been in a situation where you had to use your third-string quarterback. A lot of teams have them and they take up scout team reps and get the defense ready to play. But now, we are forced to use ours. We don’t make excuses. We’ll go out there and play hard and play well around Danny. Hopefully, that will be good enough to get us a win.”

Given Denver’s uncertain quarterback situation, Broncos running back Clinton Portis could be busy. Behind a superb offensive line, Portis, the AFC’s fourth-leading rusher with 596 yards on 109 carries (5.5 yards a carry) and four touchdowns, was last season’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and led all backs in yards per carry (5.52 yards).

Portis is a double-threat coming out of the backfield as a receiver and is capable of breaking a long one at any time, evidenced by his 17 touchdowns last season. Ravens coach Brian Billick doesn’t see Denver relying on Portis too much.

“They have the assets to throw the ball very well,” Billick said. “Danny Kanell has a lot of experience.

I don’t think it will be a 50-60 run game. It won’t be a hour-and-a-half game with our 50 runs and their 50 runs.

He is an experienced quarterback that has been there and I imagine there will be some limitations, I’m sure. They are good coaches, they are going to have the complete package.”

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