Kanell thrilled to get another shot

Updated: October 23, 2003, 11:38 AM ET

DENVER -- Danny Kanell went from being a starting quarterback in the NFL to having trouble getting teams to return his calls. He played minor league baseball for a year, spent a season in the Arena League and even coached at his high school.

Will he be the next Tommy Maddox or Kurt Warner? No matter, Kanell is going to enjoy his time as the starter for the Denver Broncos for however long it lasts.

"It was frustrating, sitting at home watching games on TV and watching players I felt I could play just as well as, if not better," Kanell said Wednesday. "I'm excited about it and I'm going to try to make the most out of it."

It begins Sunday against Baltimore, when Kanell makes his first NFL start in nearly three years.

He was pressed into service after starter Jake Plummer broke his foot and backup Steve Beuerlein broke a finger.

Plummer is expected to miss at least three more weeks and Beuerlein is out for the season, meaning Kanell will be Denver's starter for at least the next two games.

"I made only half jokingly the reference the other day that Danny has more starts and more experience than my quarterbacks group combined," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

Sure, Kanell has plenty of experience, but it was a while ago.

Kanell began his career with the New York Giants in 1996 and became the starter six games into his second season after Dave Brown was injured. Kanell led New York to a 7-2-1 record and the NFC East title.

But it went downhill from there.

He started the first 10 games in 1998 before being replaced by Kent Graham after a 3-7 start. He signed as a free agent with Atlanta the next season, but lasted just three games before going on injured reserve.

In 2000, Kanell played just five games and the Falcons didn't re-sign him after the season. He sent letters to about 15 NFL teams hoping for another shot, but no one was interested.

That led to a stint with the Newark Bears in the baseball's independent Atlantic League, followed by last year's run with the New York Dragons in the Arena Football League.

"There were definitely days when I wondered if I was going to play again," Kanell said.

His chance came in June, when the Broncos signed him to compete for the third quarterback spot.

Kanell made a good impression in a short time, but was cut just before the season after the Broncos decided to go with two quarterbacks. He was gone, but not forgotten.

"I asked him when we let him go in the preseason, I said, 'Danny, if another team talks to you and wants to sign you, we'll bring you back on our roster," Shanahan said. "So that kind of gives you a little idea of what I think of Danny Kanell."

Hoping for another chance at the NFL, Kanell bided his time by keeping in shape and coaching at his high school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He wasn't there long.

Plummer's shoulder injury in the second week made Shanahan rethink the two-quarterback plan and the Broncos brought Kanell back. He was the third quarterback for three games, but was bumped up to the No. 2 spot when Plummer couldn't play against Pittsburgh.

That didn't last long, either.

Beuerlein broke his little finger in the third quarter Sunday against Minnesota, leading to Kanell's first NFL action since Nov. 12, 2000, when he started for the Falcons against Detroit.

Once back, it was like he had never left.

Kanell nearly brought the Broncos back from a 28-10 deficit, leading them to two scores before a last-minute drive failed. He finished 12-of-18 for 104 yards and a touchdown.

He starts this week in Baltimore.

And while it may not turn into the kind of success stories that Maddox and Warner pulled off, it's still going to be hard to get Kanell to stop smiling.

"It's crazy the way things work out," he said.

On Wednesday, the Broncos re-signed Jarious Jackson to back up Kanell. Jackson had been Denver's third quarterback the past three years, but was released just before the season.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index