Ravens fans may have mixed emotions about Kyle Boller's on-field performance during his six-year tenure in purple and black, but not one of the Baltimore faithful should question his character.
Ever since he was named the starter after being selected 19th overall in the 2003 NFL Draft, Boller experienced his share of highs and lows. Because he was anointed the franchise quarterback from the beginning, those lows were always sharply scrutinized.
And Boller always stood up to the criticism as the leader of the Ravens' offense.
Now that he has officially signed a two-year contract with the St. Louis Rams, Boller won't be asked to helm an offense. He will merely provide steady depth at his position behind incumbent Marc Bulger. It is a different role, but one to which Boller will certainly bring his same class and character.
"We think he's a good fit for us backing up Marc," Rams general manager Billy Devaney told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He's a young guy that still has a ton of ability and a lot of upside. This is a really good pickup for us."
The Cal product has extensive pro experience, starting 42 of his 53 games with the Ravens. He is the team's all-time leader with 746 career completions and 7,846 yards on 1,311 attempts. Boller also owns 45 career touchdowns and 44 interceptions.
Boller was thrust into his role from Day 1, when he became the first rookie to start at quarterback in Ravens history in the 2003 season opener.
That initial year, Baltimore won the AFC North partly due to an explosive rushing attack led by Jamal Lewis' 2,066 yards.
From there, things got progressively worse. In 2004, Boller turned in his best statistical campaign, completing 258 of 464 passes for 2,559 yards, 13 scores and 11 interceptions, but the Ravens finished 9-7. A 6-10 outing in 2005 - when Boller was sidelined seven games with a toe injury - led to the offseason acquisition of veteran Steve McNair, who helped earn a franchise-best 13-3 record.
Boller never reclaimed the job.
Former Ravens center Jason Brown, who also recently signed with St. Louis, attributed Boller's bumpy career to the amount of hits he took early in his career.
"That relationship between the quarterback and the offensive line, it's more important than what people think because we give that guy confidence," Brown said during his introductory press conference last month. "Kyle Boller with the Ravens, I love him to death, but you see what getting hit one too many times early in your career can do to you.
"He became gun shy instead of getting the ball and standing back there with poise and then being able to step up. If there was a flash of anything, something, it might have been far to the edge, he was like (flinching). And he started to scramble. You have to have the faith in your offensive line to where you say, 'Hey, I know these guys are going to give me the seconds that I need in order to get this ball off.' "
Still, Boller never stopped competing. He sought for the first-string role again this past year, but a shoulder injury in training camp landed him on Injured Reserve.
At the time, offensive coordinator **Cam Cameron** commended Boller for his hard work and was disappointed at the quarterback's bad break.
"I've been fortunate to be around a lot of quality guys that were also quality workers, and I haven't been around any quarterback that worked harder than Kyle did this offseason," said Cameron. "You feel for Kyle. It's kind of emotional for me because you see the sacrifices he made for all of us.
"He'll get through it."
Boller spent much of his time rehabbing the shoulder in his home state of California, and even though he watched rookie Joe Flacco!(/team/roster/joe-flacco/3e20766f-6520-4ca1-9901-44389aaea8b8/ "Joe Flacco") ascend into his old spot, Boller still returned frequently to Baltimore and support the team.
The 27-year-old attended nearly every home game and even traveled to all three playoff matchups. The entire time, all he ever offered regarding Flacco and the Ravens was praise.
It's now Flacco's offense to run, but fans definitely won't forget when it was Boller's.
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