Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Friday, July 16, 2010

Like a good neighbor, Bulger is there for Flacco

OWINGS MILLS - Marc Bulger didn't join the Baltimore Ravens to challenge Joe Flacco, or look over his shoulder.

A starter for the majority of his nine years with the St. Louis Rams, the former Pro Bowl quarterback has no intentions of crowding Flacco while adjusting to his new backup role. Bulger passed his physical and signed his one-year, $3.8 million contract earlier this week.

"It should be a different role, but it was made clear to me upfront that would be my role there," Bulger said during a Wednesday conference call. "I understand that I'm coming in and whatever capacity I can help Joe, I'll do it. It's just about helping us win football games."

Spoken like a true insurance policy.

A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Bulger has completed 62.1 percent of his career throws with 122 touchdowns and 93 interceptions.

The Ravens envision Bulger, 33, being a mentor to Flacco even though the former first-round draft pick is already an established NFL starter.

Heading into his third NFL season, Flacco has never missed a start since Baltimore drafted him in the first round.

Bulger, who has never met Flacco, emphasized that he doesn't want to overload him with too much advice.

"He's proven himself already in his short career," said Bulger, who can make up to $5.3 million if he triggers incentive clauses based on playing time. "I don't want to be the guy that comes in here and thinks I know it all and put too much on him. I'm going to let Joe let me know how much input he wants me to give.

"I just don't want to be the know-it-all backup. It's real easy to stand on the sideline and tell the guy who's actually doing it how easy it is because I've been in that situation before. I had a great mentor in Kurt Warner. I'll leave it up to Joe how much help he wants, but I'll be there for anything he needs."

Cut by the Rams this spring after management decided to draft Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford with the top overall pick, Bulger missed out on potential starting jobs because of the timing of his release.

There had been speculation about Bulger possibly going to the Arizona Cardinals and the Chicago Bears.

Ultimately, the Ravens provided the most lucrative option for him and allowed him to go to a playoff team with Super Bowl aspirations.

"It's obvious that the longer they held me, the more opportunities were getting taken by other players," Bulger said. "They had a responsibility to the Rams first. No hard feelings from it. It definitely took a couple opportunities away, but this opportunity here would have never been there, and I think it's the best situation for me."

Bulger started eight games last season for the 1-15 Rams, passing for 1,469 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions with a 70.7 passer rating.

His production took a serious dip during a catastrophic year where he took a beating, ending the season on injured reserve with a fractured shin bone.

Bulger said he wasn't concerned about passing his physical.

"I was healthy," Bulger said. "I had heard reports about all these different things I had and I really just had the cracked bone in my leg. I've broken some bones throughout my career, but I've really had no surgeries and I was pretty confident going into it."

As a starter for the Rams, Bulger went 41-54 as he passed for 22,814 yards with an 84.4 career passer rating.

Joining the Ravens gives Bulger a fresh start after a rough stretch in St. Louis in recent years.

"I'm just more interested in football again," Bulger said. "I'm interested just to put the fun back into it. The last three years have been pretty difficult. You only win five games in three years and the building's just down. You get a new atmosphere where you're talking about trying to win a Super Bowl."

Named to the Pro Bowl 2004 and 2006 when he passed for 4,301 and 3,964 yards, Bulger was signed to a six-year, $62.5 million contract that included $27 million in guaranteed money.

Since that deal, though, Bulger has thrown 34 interceptions with 27 touchdowns as the Rams disintegrated around him.

By signing Bulger, the Ravens have added their most accomplished backup since the days of Kordell Stewart or Randall Cunningham.

Bulger is arguably one of the best backups in the NFL. He's a lot more experienced than third-string and fourth-string quarterbacks Troy Smith and John Beck, who have combined for only six starts.

"I'd like to think that I'd be one of the top guys," Bulger said. "If I happen to get in, I wouldn't be a backup anymore. I'd be the starter."

Ideally, though, Bulger will never see the field except in the event of a blowout.

If he has to play, Bulger's confident that he'll run the offense adeptly.

"I've been in a lot of situations, played a lot of football in the NFL," he said. "They'd have a guy that's confident, wouldn't be a nervous young guy coming off the bench that's never played before.

"I think I could just keep the team rolling, and we wouldn't have to miss a beat. Let's hope that doesn't have to happen."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

No comments: