Bulger has a new role as Ravens' backup
BALTIMORE — Marc Bulger doesn't know Joe Flacco, but the new Ravens backup quarterback acutely understands his situation.
Seven years ago, Bulger — a Central Catholic and West Virginia product — was a young starting quarterback for the St. Louis Rams, who had a veteran backup in Kurt Warner. He described Warner as a "great mentor" because the former NFL Most Valuable Player allowed Bulger to guide how much information he wanted out of the veteran.
Two days after signing his one-year, $3.8 million contract with the Ravens, Bulger wants to assume the same supportive role for Flacco.
"I just don't want to be the know-it-all backup," Bulger said. "It's real easy to stand in the background and 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."
Bulger, 33, is the Ravens' most accomplished backup since Kordell Stewart in 2004. He's a two-time Pro Bowl selection. He reached 1,000 completions faster than anyone in NFL history and recorded 27 games with 300 or more yards passing. And he left the Rams ranking first in franchise history in completions (1,969) and second in passing yards (22,814), completion percentage (62.1) and passer rating (84.4).
His biggest impact for the Ravens might come off the field. As a rookie, Flacco enjoyed having veteran backup Todd Bouman as a sounding board. After having two young backups (Troy Smith and John Beck) last season, the Ravens probably helped Flacco by bringing in a backup who wants to help him rather than unseat him.
During a 12-minute conference call this past week, Bulger was repeatedly complimentary of Flacco.
"He's proven himself already in his short career," Bulger said. "He's gone to the playoffs. I don't want to be the guy that comes in here and puts too much on him. I'm going to let Joe let me know how much input he wants me to give."
Bulger, who started at least seven games for eight seasons in the NFL, said being a backup "should be a different role." But he also acknowledged that he could have had better opportunities elsewhere after the Rams granted his request to be released in early April.
There were strong reports that Bulger was headed to Arizona, where he would compete for the starting job against Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson. There was a rumor about Bulger reuniting with Mike Martz in Chicago. There was even talk that he could be interested in going to the Steelers, where he would fill in for the suspended Ben Roethlisberger.
Instead, Bulger landed with the Ravens, where his contract could hit $5.8 million if all incentives are reached.
"It was clear to me upfront when I first started speaking with Baltimore that backup would be my role there," he said. "And throughout this whole process talking to teams, there were chances to be a starter at places, and a chance to compete, and then obviously (to also) be a backup. And 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."
Winning has become essential for Bulger after recording six victories over the past three years. In each of those seasons, he threw more interceptions (34) than touchdowns (27) for a team that has crumbled.
"I know in a better situation I would have won more games, but that's neither here nor there," Bulger said. "If we were winning games and I'm sitting on the sidelines for 16 or 17 weeks, and we're heading to the playoffs, I'll be just as happy as if I was the starter.
"Going through the last three years is something I've never experienced in the professional level, or college or even high school. I've never lost that many games, and I'm just upset that I was a part of it. And when you're a quarterback, you're a big part of it. I just want to win games again, and I know we're going to win a bunch in Baltimore, and that's the most exciting thing about it."
Bulger said he has recovered from a cracked bone in his leg, which put him on injured reserve last season with two games remaining.
Calling it a "non-issue," he was back on the treadmill by February and passed a physical for the Ravens on Tuesday.
Perhaps his greatest challenge is learning the offense. He wasn't signed until after the offseason minicamps and received his playbook only a couple of days ago.
But Bulger gives the Ravens something their other backups can't -- experience. Bulger has started 95 games. Smith and Beck have combined for six starts.
Asked about what he brings to the backup job, Bulger said: "I've been in a lot of situations and played a lot of football in the NFL. You know, (they'd) have a guy in there that's confident, wouldn't be a nervous young guy coming off the bench that's never played before. I think I could bring that and just keep the team rolling, and we wouldn't have to miss a beat, which let's hope that doesn't have to happen."