Some Ravens face final audition With first cut coming, Ethridge is hoping to catch a bit part

August 17, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens wide receiver Ray Ethridge was the San Diego Chargers' third-round draft pick in 1992. Since then, he has been in and out of NFL training camps, but has yet to play a down in a regular-season game.

And he may never get the opportunity.

Ethridge, 27, is one of many players the Ravens have to make serious judgment on in the next couple of days, beginning with tonight's preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Memorial Stadium.

Ravens vice president of personnel Ozzie Newsome and coach Ted Marchibroda will huddle this weekend as the team prepares for its first cut of 20 players by Tuesday's deadline, which requires teams to reduce their rosters to 60 players.

Ethridge is trying to secure one of six probable wide receiver spots, with four taken by Michael Jackson, Derrick Alexander, Calvin Williams and Floyd Turner.

And with rookie Jermaine Lewis doubling as a return specialist, that leaves one slot open, probably for either Ethridge or rookie James Roe.

Roe can be signed to a contract on the developmental squad, but Ethridge can't because he spent last season on the practice squad.

"Right now, I'm not thinking about any particular situation," said Ethridge. "I'm going to go out and play the same way I've been playing, and hope there is an opportunity to make some plays. I don't get nervous about cuts anymore because I've been in this situation before."

Ethridge has been in almost every situation, except in the game. The Chargers placed him on the physically unable to perform list in 1992 and he was placed on injured reserve and later waived by the Chargers a year later. Ethridge did not play in 1994, but was signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns on May 2, 1995.

The Browns traded him to the Carolina Panthers, who eventually waived him before the Browns re-signed him on Dec. 12, 1995.

Most players would have quit and moved on to another profession. Not Ethridge.

"I've grown up a little bit and realize that the important part is that you give 100 percent and in my heart I've done that," said Ethridge. "There are some things that are beyond your control, but I feel real good about this opportunity. I know I can play on this team and in this league."

Rookies David Barnard, a defensive tackle, and safety Dante Depaola aren't as confident. Both are free agents. Barnard has been running with both the second and third teams during training camp. Depaola has spent nearly all his time on the third.

These are anxious times. Neither one wants to hear the knock on the door and those dreaded words: "And please bring your play book."

"I'm anxious, but not nervous," Barnard said. "I've put out everything I could in training camp, and now after one more game it's time to see if the coaches like what you've done, or if your number comes up."

Depaola has been playing football since grade school. The game against the Packers might be his last.

"You knew coming in it was going to come down to this," said Depaola. "But playing against a talented team like Green Bay, on a Saturday, well, that's what it's all about. I can't make roster changes, so you go out and practice and hope you catch a coach's eye. Hopefully, this won't be my last game, that I'll be playing more for some time to come."

Marchibroda said: "There are some guys who can go one way or another. This game should be a good indicator for many of those guys."

It will be a barometer for the veterans as well. Green Bay is picked by some experts to make it to the Super Bowl.

The Packers have been to the playoffs three straight years, advancing to the NFC championship game last season -- a 38-27 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Ravens starters are expected to play a half.

"This is a real big test," said Ravens defensive tackle Larry Webster. "They beat us last year, and it's getting close to the end of preseason. This is the third game and now it's time for some fine-tuning. The regular season is almost here."

Said Eric Zeier, the team's backup quarterback: "This will be a test to let us know where we are as a football team."

Ravens tonight

Opponent: Green Bay Packers

Site: Memorial Stadium

Time: 7

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Ravens by 3

Ravens roll call

Earnest Hunter

Pos.: Running back

Height: 5-8

Weight: 201

Age: 25

College: SE Oklahoma State

Year: 2nd

How acquired: Signed as a free agent in 1995.

Highlights: Owned a 22.1-yard kickoff return average and a 13.3-yard punt return average. Had 100 yards rushing on 30 carries. Lost four fumbles on the year. Team's leading rusher in 1995 preseason with 250 yards.

Personal: Transferred to Southeast Oklahoma State from Navarro Junior College. Selected to the NAIA All-America team as a senior. Set NAIA Division I, conference and school records by rushing for 1,899 yards and 16 touchdowns. Has a script "E" etched into a gold front tooth.

Brian Kinchen

Pos.: Tight end

Height: 6-2

Weight: 240

Age: 30

College: Louisiana State

Year: 9th

How acquired: Signed as a free agent in 1991.

Highlights: Has caught at least 20 passes in each of the past three seasons. Has started 38 of 45 games over the past three years, making 73 of his 75 receptions during that span. Half of his receptions last season resulted in first downs.

Personal: Was the 1995 NFL Players Association representative. His younger brother, Todd, was a third-round draft choice of the L.A. Rams in 1992. Active in Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Donated time to Cystic Fibrosis and area hospitals. Finished second in the NFL Golf Classic last spring. He was an honorable mention All-America pick in his junior and senior seasons at LSU.

Pub Date: 8/17/96

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