Dick Harmon: Beck gets another chance to start over

Published: Sunday, May 24 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Ex-BYU quarterback John Beck, who struggled with the Miami Dolphins, works out with his new team, the Ravens.  (Phil Hoffman, Baltimore Ravens) Ex-BYU quarterback John Beck, who struggled with the Miami Dolphins, works out with his new team, the Ravens. (Phil Hoffman, Baltimore Ravens)

John Beck has found plenty of friends on the roster of the Baltimore Ravens. Now it's all about proving to them he can answer the call to quarterback the team if his number gets called.

And then there's that other deal — small but important to players — his No. 12.

Beck searched out, found and obtained his high school and college jersey number in short order after getting to town. He bought it from a receiver, Ernie Wheelwright, who wasn't as emotionally attached to the number. As usual in these jersey number squabbles, Beck forked over some money to the guy.

"It cost me, but it wasn't that much," he said.

A second-round pick by the Dolphins in 2007, Beck had to settle for No. 9 on his jersey. No. 12 belonged to the hallowed Bob Griese and nobody's putting that one on again.

Today, Beck is spending the weekend with his wife Barbara and two kids in Miami, a short break from the Raven football camps, which will resume this week at the Raven training facility. He's been flying to Florida every weekend.

Beck's task is to challenge starter Joe Flacco and backup Troy Smith. He's trading time with Smith in drills, which have only a two-deep.

There are other QBs in NFL history that got off to slow starts like Beck did as a rookie with the Dolphins (see graphic).

Flacco is clearly in command and the Ravens, observers say, are becoming "galvanized" behind his success as a rookie out of Delaware last season.

In a passing drill open to the public last Tuesday, Beck threw a pick to linebacker Tavares Gooden but he later impressed observers with several darts including a 5-yard TD pass to Kelly Washington in which he perfectly split two defenders with the throw.

Beck likes Flacco and Smith. "They are easy guys to get along with. I knew Troy from the NFL combine and we did a rookie tour in Los Angeles. Also, he was a teammate (at Ohio State) with Ted Ginn who was with me at Miami."

The best part of going to the Ravens is his familiarity with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who was instrumental in drafting him as the head coach of the Dolphins three years ago.

"It was nice to step in and call plays with some comfort. I knew his system and it wasn't like I was a rookie coming in. I knew the route progressions. There were some differences, but some were the same."

The tough part, said Beck, is undoing the reflexes and natural instincts schooled and drilled into him by a different regime in Miami this past year.

That may seem trivial to some, but for Beck, who is a gym rat, he wants to get it all down pat as soon as possible. This is the third offensive system he's faced in three years and the inability to have continuity and consistency bugs him. He's had no back-to-back situations.

"I'm having to kick out all my habits and instincts and replace them with new ones. I just had the old ones drilled in and now it's all changed. It's frustrating."

He's talking about learning blocking jobs by linemen and backs, different play action, different hot routes, different ways he's supposed to use footwork in his drop and pivot, route progressions and pass protection schemes.

"It's just one of those tough things. Once you get in a rhythm you are told you can't do that, do this."

Beck recognizes he faces a big learning curve, that's why he crams every spare minute into study. His day begins at 7 a.m., and doesn't end until 7 p.m., when he leaves the facility.

"I have time to grab some dinner, maybe watch 'American Idol,' and then read some more before going asleep."

Other than Cameron, he's got plenty of friends, including tight end Todd Heaps, who went to the same high school in Mesa, Ariz., former Highland High and Oregon star Haloti Ngata, Utah rookie Paul Kruger and Ute one-year veteran Kelly Talavou. Then there are the guys he played against in Wyoming: DB Derrick Martin, Jason Phillips (TCU), WR Marcus Smith (New Mexico) and Terrell Suggs, who, as an Arizona prep star, attended award banquets with Beck.

"From what I can tell, Kruger is doing just fine. He's one of the guys I've got to know very well. I don't think he's seeing a ton of playing time but they're using him in his patented role, dropping back, looking at the quarterback's eyes and knocking down passes. I think he's doing well."

The Ravens are listed behind the Colts, Steelers and Patriots with the best odds to win the 2010 Super Bowl, certainly a team Beck doesn't mind spending a year with.

The Ravens will continue camps until late June, then Beck will have some down time and move his family to an apartment in Maryland. He's also hosting a charity golf event July 8 at Thanksgiving Point to benefit his Friends of Football Foundation featuring NFL celebrities playing with corporate foursomes.

He's also in the second year of his Next Level Football Camp for youth in grades three through 12 on July 6-7 at Provo High (www.gonxtlevel.com).

"When you go up the ladder in football you wish you'd learned things before at each level. This camp provides those things," Beck said.

Year three for Beck in the NFL?

It mirrors his college career with changing offenses, head coaches, coordinators — a musical chair dance in which he finds himself starting all over again.

Someday it would be nice to enjoy some continuity in his world. Then see what happens.

Comparison of rookie QB seasons

Record Record Comp. Ints TDs Rating as starter as team

Tim Couch 2-12 2-14 56 13 15 73.2

Jake Plummer 3-6 4-12 59 15 15 73.1

Bryon Leftwich 5-8 5-11 57 16 14 73.0

Peyton Manning* 3-13 3-13 57 28 26 71.2

Bernie Kosar 4-6 8-8 50 7 8 69.3

Phil Simms* 6-5 6-10 51 14 13 66.0

Drew Bledsoe 5-7 5-11 50 15 15 65.0

David Carr 4-12 4-12 53 15 9 62.4

John Beck 0-4 1-15 56 3 1 62.0

Bob Griese* 3-7 4-10 50 18 15 61.6

Joey Harrington 3-9 3-13 50 16 12 59.9

Steve Young* 1-4 2-14 52 8 3 56.9

Troy Aikman 0-11 1-15 53 18 9 55.7

Eli Manning 1-6 6-10 48 9 6 55.4

John Elway* 4-6 9-7 48 14 7 54.9

Alex Smith 2-5 4-12 51 11 1 40.8

Trent Dilfer* 0-2 6-10 46 6 1 36.3

Terry Bradshaw* 3-5 5-9 38 24 6 30.4

*Super Bowl participants

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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