Kanell seeks triumphant return against Ravens

Updated: October 25, 2003, 11:14 AM ET

BALTIMORE -- Danny Kanell feels like a rookie quarterback again.

Kyle Boller is the genuine article, and he can't wait for the day when his inexperience is no longer a detriment to his development.

Kanell will start for the first time in nearly three years and Boller will continue his on-the-job training when the Denver Broncos face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

Cut by the Broncos in training camp, Kanell was coaching a high school football team when Denver signed him earlier this month after starter Jake Plummer broke his foot.

Then, after backup Steve Beuerlein broke a finger in last week's defeat at Minnesota, Kanell stepped into the starting job.

"It's crazy the way things work out," said Kanell, who spent the last two years playing minor league baseball and throwing passes in the Arena League.

As he worked with the first team this week, Kanell's mind flashed back to 1996, when he was a rookie out of Florida State playing for the New York Giants.

"When you've been away this long, it feels that way," he said.

Kanell played in only four games that year, all of them in a mop-up role. Boller, the 19th overall pick in the 2003 draft, has already started six times for the Ravens, with mixed results.

The Ravens (3-3) lead the AFC North, but Boller has thrown seven interceptions compared to four touchdowns. He lost two fumbles and threw an interception last week in Baltimore's 34-26 loss to Cincinnati.

Coach Brian Billick anticipated an erratic performance at quarterback when he made Boller his starter. The Broncos, conversely, figured they were set at the position when they signed Plummer during the offseason.

Then came the injuries.

"It's very strange," said Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe, who played two years in Baltimore. "I don't think in my 14 years that I have ever seen in a situation where you had to use your third-string quarterback. But we don't make excuses. We'll play hard around Danny, and hopefully that will be good enough to get us a win."

The Broncos (5-2) will likely depend heavily on running back Clinton Portis, who ranks fourth in the AFC in rushing behind NFL-leader Jamal Lewis of Baltimore. But both teams will dare the other to pass.

"I have a lot of confidence in our front seven, especially when we have a guy like Ray Lewis leading us," Ravens defensive end Anthony Weaver said. "We're very confident we can stop the run, and I don't think they're going to get many yards on us."

If the Broncos must pass, Baltimore intends to make sure Kanell has precious little time to focus on a receiver.

"You got to make Kanell beat you. He's the quarterback that hasn't been starting and hasn't been playing," Ravens safety Ed Reed said.

"If I was a defensive coordinator, I'd come after me," Kanell said. "Anytime you see a new guy in there or somebody that hasn't been in the system, you know they're going to throw a lot of junk at you. They're probably going to throw the whole house."

Baltimore has beaten the Broncos in each of the last two seasons, including a 34-23 victory last year in which the Ravens used a 31-point second quarter that included a 107-yard run by Chris McAlister on a missed field goal try.

Asked what he remembered most about that game, Billick replied, "The speed with which I got down the sideline, staying with Chris McAlister step for step, shocking America with how fast I am."

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