Riders bring back Ragsdale

04/26/02 Bismarck Tribune
The Bismarck Roughriders are hoping that the return of Rags will lead to NIFL riches.

When Danny Ragsdale, who helped lead the Bismarck Blaze to an IFL playoff berth two years ago, was cut by the New York Dragons of the Arena Football League earlier this week, the Roughriders pounced on the quarterback.

"Danny is a proven player and a proven leader," Bismarck coach Collins Sanders said. "We'd be crazy not to take a chance on somebody like him."

Ragsdale joins a Roughrider team not unlike the Blaze club he joined early in the 2000 season.

Just like the Roughriders, the Blaze were 3-2 and struggling to get their passing game on track when the Redlands (Calif.) quarterback entered the starting lineup. Ragsdale went 6-1 as a starter, including wins in his last five games before leaving Bismarck for the AFL's Iowa Barnstormers late in the season.

Ragsdale completed 89 of 157 passes for 1,056 yards in his nine games with Bismarck. He threw for 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions and finished fourth in the league with a passer rating of 94.9. He also ran 25 times for 87 yards and scored eight TDs on the ground.

But Ragsdale's most memorable game with Bismarck was one he didn't start. After playing sparingly in his first game with the Blaze, Ragsdale came off the bench to engineer a wild 52-51 victory over Black Hills in his next contest. In the final minute of that victory, Ragsdale ran for one touchdown and threw for another -- and won the starting job.

Ragsdale joined Iowa late in the 2000 season and was on their practice squad. Last year he backed up AFL offensive player of the year Aaron Garcia, throwing two touchdown passes in two games.

Ragsdale started the season opener for New York in last weekend's 43-25 loss to Los Angeles. Ragsdale went 13-for-24 with 129 yards, one TD and one pick. When the Dragons, who replaced Ragsdale with Matt Nagy late in the game, picked up Danny Kanell (Florida State, New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons), Ragsdale became expendable.

Sanders said he is uncertain whether Ragsdale would start Saturday's game against the Lincoln Capitols. But the former Division III player of the year could be the perfect tonic for Bismarck's passing game, which is producing a shade under 67 yards per game. For comparison's sake, using the NFL quarterback rating system, Ragsdale's rating during the 2000 season would have been 106.0. The Roughriders' QBs composite rating this year would be a 12.9.

Sanders said the team will keep Ragsdale, Jason Baliko and Brett Thompson on the roster this week, although only two will dress for Saturday's game. One will likely be cut the following week. Although Baliko's numbers (18-for-59, 266 yards, 9 TDs, 10 interceptions) are unimpressive, he does have a 2-1 record as a starter, and Sanders said he is pleased with the job he has done.

"Jason has progressed very well," Sanders said. "His inexperience (in the indoor game) showed, but he has a bright future."

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