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McNair more comfortable in second year with Ravens

WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) - Steve McNair began his 13th training camp Monday with a familiar sense of calm.

A year ago, McNair hardly knew any of his new Baltimore Ravens teammates and was similarly unfamiliar with the playbook. The former Tennessee Titans quarterback was under pressure to learn the complex offense of coach Brian Billick, and there wasn't much time to get it done.

This season, anxiety has been replaced by confidence. It's just another training camp for McNair, who took charge in the huddle Monday, addressed his receivers with authority and threw tight spirals with a purpose.

"It's a 180 degree turn. I feel comfortable," McNair said. "I'm not rushing like I was last year, trying to fit in with this offense. I've been a part of it for a year now. Last year I was thinking a lot, like, was I doing the right things? Today, I know it."

McNair was inserted on top of the depth chart as soon as the June 2006 trade with the Titans was completed. It took him most of training camp to enter into a comfort zone with Baltimore, but once the season started McNair showed why he earned four Pro Bowl bids and was voted co-MVP in 2003.

On his first drive of the regular season, McNair took Baltimore 80 yards for a touchdown to launch a 27-0 rout of Tampa Bay. That started the Ravens toward a franchise-best 13-3 season and the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.

McNair started all 16 games. He completed 63 percent of his passes, threw for 16 touchdowns and guided an offense that ranked first in the NFL in time of possession.

The Ravens lost in the playoffs to Indianapolis, a defeat that did little to deter the optimism that was apparent Monday at McDaniel College.

"It's about going to the Super Bowl and winning it. That's our goal right now," McNair said.

A year ago, Billick had to provide instruction and guidance to the quarterback on a daily basis. Now, it's merely a matter of telling McNair the play and watching him execute it.

"To be able to begin with that, to go forward with a veteran quarterback that knows your system is huge," Billick said. "It's a great starting point."

Said McNair: "I know what I'm doing, I know the expectations of this offense. We want to be one of the top 10 offenses in the National Football League."

Given that Baltimore owned the top-ranked defense last season, the Ravens should flourish if the 34-year-old McNair continues to develop a rapport with wide receivers Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap. He has a new running back to work with in Willis McGahee.

"Steve has everything he needs to run this offense," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "There's a complete balance to our football team now."

The offense Monday was without starting left tackle Jonathan Ogden, who was among five players placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Ogden has been bothered by a sprained big toe, but is expected to be ready for the Sept. 10 opener in Cincinnati.

"We knew last February that (Ogden) would go to PUP and miss three maybe four weeks of training camp. That was the design; we structured it that way," Billick said. "Even if he weren't hurt, this process probably suits J.O. right now."

Ogden, who turns 33 Tuesday, showed last year that he doesn't need a full training camp to get ready for the season. He missed several weeks because of the death of his father, but played in the opener and went on to earn a 10th berth in the Pro Bowl.

Others placed on the PUP were: fullback Justin Green, linebackers Dan Cody and Mike Smith, and offensive tackle Mike Kracalick.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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