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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Dilfer ready to let go of Billick grudge
By Times wires
Published October 5, 2007
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Trent Dilfer is tired of carrying the grudge he has held against Brian Billick for nearly seven years.
Besides, the 49ers' new starting quarterback will have a bigger burden on his shoulders this weekend.
Dilfer plans to seek out Billick before Sunday's game at Candlestick Park to clear the air after years of tension between the Ravens coach and the quarterback who led the team to its only championship, only to be dumped a few months later.
"He's been the man, I've been the child, and it's about time I fixed that," Dilfer said Wednesday.
Dilfer was the sixth overall pick in 1994 for the Bucs, who didn't re-sign him after the 1999 season. He then spent just one season in Baltimore, but his success there is the highlight of his 14-year career. His unceremonious exit seems to be his biggest regret.
Dilfer went 11-1 as a starter for Baltimore, culminating in a Super Bowl victory in January 2001, but wasn't offered a new contract after the season. Billick decided to go with Elvis Grbac, and Dilfer became the first starting quarterback from a Super Bowl champion who didn't come back in that role the following year.
Dilfer felt disrespected when Billick didn't contact him personally after the Ravens dropped him, and that hurt has festered.
Eight months ago, Dilfer told the Baltimore Sun that Billick "grossly misunderstood the talent of that football team, myself specifically. I totally agree with so many things he did. But to this day, I am so sad I didn't have the chance to face the challenge of repeating."
Dilfer has since softened his tone.
"I regret many of the things I said in February," Dilfer said. "What I do stand by is the fact that I'm heartbroken that I didn't get the chance to repeat and go through the struggles of what that entails. Where I've been wrong ... is I haven't been able to let it go."
Billick has resisted the urge to snipe back at the well-traveled quarterback. While preparing his vaunted defense to take on the 49ers' struggling offense, Billick had only good memories of Dilfer's work for him.
"There is a huge affection for Trent and what he represented when he was here," Billick said. "I know Trent has certain feelings about me, probably more than the organization, which is okay. ... If that's the way of keeping it compartmentalized for him, of keeping the affection he has for the people here in Baltimore and the organization, I certainly understand it."
Dilfer bounced to Seattle and Cleveland before coming back home to northern California last season, embracing his role as Alex Smith's mentor.
Dilfer is now Smith's successor while the 49ers wait to see how long Smith's separated shoulder will keep him out of action.