Everitt and Jones caught off guard by moves Ravens players expected team to make changes, but just not these

July 10, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Several Ravens players said they were disappointed that the team waited to within a week of training camp to cut veteran players Andre Rison and Pepper Johnson, and that the moves could hurt team morale.

Rookies are expected to report to training camp at Western Maryland College on Sunday, and veterans will have their first workout July 19.

The Ravens cut Rison, a receiver, and Johnson, a middle linebacker, yesterday because the team was only $79,000 under the salary cap, according to team officials. The team is expected to cut veteran starting cornerback Don Griffin today.

"This is not something you want to happen a week before camp," said center Steve Everitt, who was recently unsuccessful in trying to get a new contract with the team. "This is a team that is trying to rally its veteran leadership, and then we find we have two holes on both sides of the ball right before camp."

"Nothing surprises me in this league anymore, but you figure going into a new city you want morale high, but I think this is going to kill it," said Everitt. "It seems like every time we get something going, the rug gets pulled out. Three years ago, we were 5-2 and they benched Bernie Kosar. Last year, we're like 3-2 and leading the division when the move leaks out. It's not like us to handle this the right way."

Ravens starting left offensive tackle Tony Jones said he expected the team to make some moves because of salary cap problems, but didn't expect Rison and Johnson to be the casualties.

Johnson was the team's emotional and spiritual leader, an intimidating force on the field that rallied the team together once owner Art Modell announced the team was moving from Cleveland to Baltimore last Nov. 6.

Rison was a leader because of his competitive spirit and game-breaking ability. The Ravens players were expecting Rison to flourish in the wide-open offense of new head coach Ted Marchibroda.

"I'm devastated, shocked," said Jones. "These are two great players that we're really going to miss. I know we have to go on, but it's going to be really tough going into training camp. I think people would have guessed anyone else except Pepper and Andre."

"Pepper kept the defense focused and he just kept everyone around him involved in the game," said Jones. "We were looking for big things from Andre because he felt he had something to prove after last year, and we knew he was always only a step away of making something big happen. After today, nothing surprises me anymore."

Ravens running back Leroy Hoard said he didn't know how the moves would affect the team, but he expected to see mixed reactions.

"I'm surprised this happened so late," said Hoard. "When management makes these kinds of moves, they don't tell the players why it happened. For the guy who has played next to them for the last couple of years, you're left to wondering why.

"And until I get to training camp, I really won't know," said Hoard. "I'm hoping this is something we'll get over quickly."

Veteran quarterback Vinny Testaverde seemed unfazed.

"I guess you have to be a little surprised," said Testaverde. "But that's the job of management and the coaching staff, to make decisions on personnel. My job is to get ready as best as I can for the season, and play with the best talent we have available. Hopefully, it all comes together like a puzzle and you play in the Super Bowl.

"Hopefully, the new guys we got are going to contribute," said Testaverde. "The players here have been through a lot in the last year, and this is just like the blink of an eye."

Marchibroda and team vice president Ozzie Newsome said they expected some fallout from the decisions.

"These players know what is going on," said Newsome. "They read the papers and see their friends getting released every day. It's the way the system is set up. It puts pressure on everybody."

Pub Date: 7/10/96

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