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More to life than titles for Dilfer

| Saturday, June 9, 2001

Trent Dilfer went from Disney World to the scrap heap in about the same amount of time it takes to say 'Elvis Grbac.'

Dilfer can handle it.

The way he sees it, Super Bowl success and being jettisoned by the team you quarterbacked past the New York Giants for all the marbles back in January are overrated in a sense.

'I think I have a pretty healthy perspective on professional sports,' Dilfer said at The Club at Nevillewood. 'Obviously, it was fantastic and I don't mean to downplay it, but it's one moment of your life. It's one that you cherish, but it's not the defining moment.

'People call it the defining moment. It's not the defining moment of my life.'

Maybe not, but it's supposed to be the defining moment for a professional quarterback. The career of John Elway - another of the celebrity hackers gracing the fairways this weekend at the Mellon Mario Lemieux Celebrity Invitational - was considered incomplete by many until he finally was able to raise a Vince Lombardi trophy aloft. The career of Dan Marino, likewise, is considered lacking by many of those same people because Marino never won a Super Bowl title while in the process of re-writing the NFL record book.

Dilfer isn't among them, to the extent that he wouldn't even think of reminding Marino, even in jest, that he forever will be associated with the fraternity of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks and Marino never will.

'That would be like beating Tiger Woods for 18 holes because he shoots 85 and saying that you're better than him,' Dilfer said. 'Dan is obviously one of the great quarterbacks that ever lived. It's one of the most unfortunate things that I've ever seen that he didn't get to win a Super Bowl.'

What's happened to Dilfer since he won his Super Bowl merely is unfair.

He wasn't the Ravens' star last season, but he was much more than merely along for the ride, as the team seems to have suggested by quickly turning to Grbac. Dilfer might have been the 11th-rated passer in the AFC last season (just behind Drew Bledsoe, just ahead of Jon Kitna), but in the playoffs, he was the player the Ravens needed him to be.

Dilfer ran the offense along the road to Super Bowl XXXV. He didn't make mistakes. He did what had to be done for the Ravens to fully take advantage of their resplendent special teams and devastating defense. He competed. And he even made a few big plays.

Dilfer's reward was to be shown the door almost before he fully could grasp and appreciate the magnitude of his accomplishment.

So be it, Dilfer reasons.

'You fight bitterness when things don't go the way you expect them to,' he said. 'But I've learned throughout my life that bitterness really affects one person, and that's the person that's bitter. I'm not going to fall into that trap.

'I'm going to make lemonade from lemons, as they say.'

Right now, Dilfer is a man without a team.

But as he learned in Baltimore, and in Tampa before that, circumstances can change in a hurry.

'I might be joining you guys,' he told a group of local media with a wide smile, suggesting a job with the Steelers might be a possibility. 'I just have to be patient.

'I haven't actually searched out jobs. I've stepped back and recognized the situation I'm in. And I recognize that I've made very, very good decisions so far in my career. I've made them because I haven't been overly anxious and because I haven't done what people tell you to do. I've sat back and I've done what I think is best. I'm going to do the same thing here.

'That may change as the summer wears on, but for right now, I wasn't going to jump on some of the things I was offered because I didn't think they were a good fit. I just have to sit back and wait. I won't disappear. You guys will hear from me again.'

When that happens, 'I'll go to a team not as a starter, but I'll go there to be the starter,' Dilfer said.

He'll bring the heart of a champion with him when he does.
Mike Prisuta is a sports writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

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