Ravens' goal: making mark in prime time Team expects hostile Giants fans to show for national TV game

Regulars will play a half

Dolphins RB Kirby could enter picture

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

The Ravens get their shot in prime time today, playing one of the NFL's most storied franchises, the New York Giants, at Giants Stadium.

Most exhibitions lack the electricity of regular-season games, but even the Ravens admit their first game on national television wearing Baltimore's purple, black and white uniforms has created a buzz in training camp.

"We still want to go out and play well," said veteran running back Earnest Byner. "We still have some things we want to establish in that game. Why not do it on national TV? Maybe we can make a statement and get some more games on national TV."

Cornerback Antonio Langham said: "There have been a lot of negative things written about us, predictions that we will finish last. This is a partial opportunity to let people know that the game is won between the white lines, not in print. National TV isn't putting a lot of pressure on us, we're putting a lot of pressure on ourselves."

The Ravens expect a hostile greeting from the crowd, similar to the receptions they got last season after owner Art Modell announced on Nov. 6 that he was moving the franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore.

But the players don't seem to mind. In fact, they revel in it.

"I'm sure there will be hostility," said receiver Michael Jackson. "People have to understand the move wasn't something that we as players caused or did. It was a business transaction. We have to go out and play whether it's in Cleveland, in Timbuktu or in Baltimore. We're happy to play in whatever city we're in."

They even joke about it.

"I don't know what to expect, but watch out for those snowballs," said Ravens linebacker Mike Croel, who played for the Giants last season when fans pelted the San Diego Chargers on the sidelines during a Dec. 23 game at Giants Stadium.

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda is expected to play his starters for a half, much as he did a week ago against the Philadelphia Eagles in the preseason opener.

Marchibroda said he didn't know what to expect in that game, but his emphasis today will be on developing a running game, choosing a No. 1 tight end, finding out if Issac Booth is a bona fide starter at cornerback and if the team has enough depth at defensive tackle.

The Ravens rushed for only 44 yards against the Eagles, with reserve quarterback Eric Zeier scrambling for 17 of those. Starting running back Leroy Hoard had only 16 yards on nine carries, and backup Earnest Hunter had 2 yards on five attempts.

The Ravens still have possible interest in signing former Houston Oilers running back Gary Brown, but Miami Dolphins running back Terry Kirby seems to be higher on their list.

The Dolphins have been shopping Kirby around the league. The fourth-year player is expected to make $783,000 this season. Kirby, a former University of Virginia standout, started four games last season and had 414 yards rushing on 108 carries. He led the team in receptions with 66 for 618 yards and three touchdowns.

He entered Dolphins training camp as the starter, but lost ground in new coach Jimmy Johnson's shake-up.

The San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints are also interested in Kirby.

"We talked to the Dolphins last week and they said they were interested in moving [kicker] Pete Stoyanovich and Kirby," said Ozzie Newsome, vice president of personnel. "There is some interest on our part with Kirby but nothing on Stoyanovich because we have Matt Stover. Right now, we have three more games to play and we will take a look at our guys before we step to the forefront, if we make a move at all."

"One of the things we have to do better is run the ball," said Marchibroda. "We didn't do well against the Eagles and we'll keep working at it this week. It was a combination of things.

"The line and backs can do better. We want to be physical up front and the Giants will be a good test for that because they're tough up front."

During the rest of the preseason the Ravens will take a hard look at No. 1 draft pick Jonathan Ogden, who has had problems run blocking from his left guard position.

Ogden, who played left tackle at UCLA, had difficulties blocking the Eagles' defensive tackles, who were bigger and bulkier than the speed rushers he faced in college.

The Ravens have declared the tight end position open, with Brian Kinchen battling Frank Hartley and Harold Bishop. The Ravens wanted Bishop to step up because he cost them a second-round draft pick this season after the Browns acquired him from Tampa Bay last year in a trade.

So far, Kinchen has been the best in camp. Hartley, nursing a hamstring, did not play against the Eagles.

"We need to get that situation ironed out," said Marchibroda. "We have the basics in for both the offense and defense and we need to spend some time getting ready for the Raiders in the season opener."

Booth, who made two big mistakes last week, will start again at cornerback. The Ravens also will take a hard look at defensive tackles Tim Goad, Dan Footman and top reserve Larry Webster.

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