OWINGS MILLS — Curtis Painter is still gaining his bearings, adjusting to an entirely different environment and status since joining the Baltimore Ravens in April.
Painter was a starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts last season, albeit one who failed to win any of his eight starts after replacing Kerry Collins on a last-place football team that struggled mightily without Peyton Manning under center.
Now, Painter is hoping to revive his career and make the Ravens’ roster as the third quarterback. That’s accompanied by a greater ambition of unseating incumbent Tyrod Taylor as the backup to starter Joe Flacco.
A new playbook, new teammates and living on the East Coast after living and playing in the Midwest from high school to Purdue University to being a sixth-round draft pick of the Colts are among the major changes for Painter.
The presence of quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, his head coach with the Colts last year, is helping Painter get acclimated.
"Anytime you come into a new situation and have a little bit of familiarity, to have a player or a coach you know, it definitely helps out," Painter said. "Having him as the quarterbacks coach and being in that room, we’ve obviously had a relationship. So, that makes it an easier transition.
"It’s obviously a process learning a new playbook, learning a lot of new faces. Everybody has been great here and helping me out. This is a great team, so I’m really happy to be here."
The Ravens signed Painter to a one-year, $615,000 contract that included no signing bonus after he beat out former Baltimore starter Kyle Boller and former Pittsburgh Steelers backup Dennis Dixon during a tryout.
Last year, the 27-year-old passed for 1,541 yards, six touchdowns and nine interceptions for a 66.6 quarterback rating.
However, Painter completed only 54.3 percent of his throws and was particularly erratic on third downs.
Among NFL starters, only Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Blaine Gabbert had a lower quarterback rating than Painter.
And Painter was benched in December and replaced by Dan Orlovsky after throwing eight interceptions with one touchdown pass in his final five starts for the Colts.
Collectively, the Colts were bad enough to earn the right to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick of the NFL draft.
Although Caldwell was in charge of the entire team, he wasn’t Painter’s position coach.
"It’s a different capacity because obviously he came in when I was a head coach, so I didn’t work with him directly," Caldwell said. "To have an opportunity to work with him is good. He’s a fine young man. He’s a dedicated guy. He works extremely hard at his craft and tries to find a way to get better."
During organized team activities and minicamps, the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder had some difficulties looking off defenders or avoiding interceptions.
He never saw inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe breaking toward the ball when he stared down a receiver on a route over the middle, resulting in an interception.
Where Painter had more success was when he had time to operate and could locate 6-foot-5, 220-pound rookie wide receiver Tommy Streeter on fade patterns. He also connected with speedy rookie Deonte Thompson for a long touchdown on a fly route.
For Painter, it’s about moving on from a rough season.
"Anytime you have a season like that, it’s difficult," Painter said. "I took a lot of snaps. I got a lot of experience. I got better. I learned a lot of things. Hopefully, that will carry over this year."
Painter is entering his fourth NFL season and has played in 11 career games.
Taylor appeared in only three games as a rookie last season, completing his lone NFL pass for 18 yards.
As a mobile dual-threat quarterback who’s always a threat to take off and run, the former Virginia Tech star has an entirely different style than Painter. Painter prefers to remain in the protective confines of the pocket, but did scramble for 107 yards on 17 carries last season.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has indicated more than once that Taylor holds the edge over Painter to remain the backup to Flacco, who has never missed a start in four NFL seasons.
That doesn’t stop Painter from hoping to create a role for himself.
"No question, you want to make the team," Painter said. "That’s the ultimate goal. If they want me to be a backup, then that’s the next step and hopefully be in that position and win games.
"First, it’s about getting things down and getting this foundation set in stone. I just want to do whatever I can to help, whatever role that is, and help the team out any way I can."