McNair calls first Ravens practice 'mind boggling'

Updated: June 14, 2006, 12:15 PM ET
Associated Press

OWINGS MILLS -- Steve McNair has three months to learn a new football language. He took his first tentative step Tuesday when he practiced with the Baltimore Ravens.

Baltimore Ravens

Att Comp Yds TD Int Rat
476 292 3027 16 11 82.4

"It's mind boggling right now," said McNair, who signed a five-year contract worth a maximum $32 million. "I think the verbiage is the most important thing right now. Once I can feel comfortable and visualize the formation and the routes that they're running, things will be OK." But, he added, "It's like starting all over again."

The Ravens traded a fourth-round draft pick to the Tennessee Titans for McNair, sending the veteran quarterback back to the classroom for his most urgent cram session since he entered the league 11 years ago. The Ravens open the regular season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 10.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, McNair often appeared hesitant Tuesday. He completed his first pass in team drills to tight end Todd Heap, but struggled at hitting receivers in stride. One late, errant pass was nearly intercepted, but defensive back Robb Butler dropped the football.

"He was thinking a lot," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of McNair, a 2003 NFL Co-Most Valuable Player. "He looked a little like a rookie coming out here. Obviously, he's got a lot to absorb right now."

McNair acknowledged that the experience was a bit confusing and that it felt a bit strange to wear a No. 9 purple jersey after spending his career with Tennessee.

The Titans plays kept flashing through his head.

"I had a few mishaps out there," McNair said. "I think I used one of my calls I had last year with the Titans. I told the guys to just be patient with me."

McNair plans to meet regularly with offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, who adjusted his vacation plans to get McNair up to speed before training camp in Westminister, Md. on July 30.

One major point of emphasis for McNair will be learning the Ravens' pass protection schemes. That's for his own safety.

"A confused quarterback is usually confronted with a barrage of blitzes. If he's confused about protections, that's when he's going to get whacked," Fassel said.

The Ravens plan to accommodate their offense to suit McNair's strengths. Entering his 12th season, McNair usually operates as a pocket passer.

"Learning a new system is a lot easier for a receiver than a quarterback, but I don't think it will take him that long," said Derrick Mason, who led Baltimore in receptions last season after eight seasons playing with McNair and the Titans. "He's shown the ability to adapt."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press