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Rookie quarterback brings savvy to the position

July 19, 1997

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) _ On the first day of training camp, a shout from behind stopped rookie quarterback Jake Plummer on his way to the dressing room: ``Hey, Snake. Come here and take my pads in.″

Plummer, who just bought two Cadillac sedans with part of his $700,000 signing bonus, dutifully slows for Arizona Cardinals center Mike Devlin. Plummer got his first taste of the NFL on Friday, but he already had an uncommon amount of awareness about the game in general.

Part of it is knowing to take care of his blockers, and an even bigger part is the transformation that takes place in the second-round draft pick when he switches from passing drills to anything that approaches the tempo of a game.

During 11-on-11 drills, he completed most of his passes.

``They were doing 15-yard outs, and Plummer was throwing pretty well,″ fan Justin Lorgan said. ``He was completing his passes and everything. But when they’re scrimmaging, he’s at his best. You see another Jake.″

As in ``Jake the Snake,″ who started 40 games in a row at Arizona State, led the Sun Devils to their second Rose Bowl berth by engineering a series of unlikely comebacks last year and finished third in Heisman voting.

Lorgan attended Arizona State and is going to summer school at Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. He predicted that Plummer would beat out incumbent Kent Graham by midseason.

``I think most of the fans are here to see Plummer,″ he said, gesturing to about 200 onlookers. ``I was living in New York when Graham was a backup for the Giants, and he was never very impressive.″

Coach Vince Tobin said that kind of speculation is premature.

``He looked about like what we expected when we drafted him,″ Tobin said about Plummer. ``He’s a good athlete. But we’re only running a few plays right now. There are lots of things he has to learn.″

Tobin waived Boomer Esiason last spring, ending that quarterback controversy, and has never wavered from his insistence that Graham can lead the team to the playoffs.

Drafting Plummer in April probably had more to do with the Cardinals’ disdain of free agent quarterbacks this summer. Plummer threw a 78-yard touchdown pass on his first college attempt, and beat out upperclassman Grady Benton midway through the season.

The Sun Devils’ 11-0 regular-season record last year stamped him as a winner, and millions saw his 11-yard TD run in the final minutes of a 20-17 loss to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

Last month, Plummer received two years’ probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault and no contest to disorderly conduct. He had faced four felony counts of sex abuse for allegedly groping four women at a nightclub in March. He denied the allegation.

Even before the charges, he was maintaining that he wouldn’t mind a few years of tutelage before trying to lead an NFL team.

``I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night,″ he said. ``I was pretty nervous. When you have a great receiver like Rob Moore, you want to be able to make the throw. You don’t want to have him saying, `Come on, rookie, get me the ball.′

``But I got into it after a while. It was great to be playing football again.″

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