Fighting spirit prevails during intense workout Hard-hitting practice spawns scuffle between Thompson and Hunter

Ravens notebook

September 06, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht and Mike Preston | Gary Lambrecht and Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda was all smiles after yesterday's practice, a day after he ripped the team for its casual approach to Wednesday's workout.

The Ravens practiced in pads for more than two hours, the workout fast-paced and featuring some hard hitting.

"Today was a winning practice. They practiced extremely well," Marchibroda said. "This is what we expect when they hit the field."

The intense practice may have provoked a fight between safety Bennie Thompson and running back Earnest Hunter. The two scuffled for several minutes before teammates tried to separate them.

Defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis had to calm down Thompson, who ripped off Hunter's helmet and then swung it wildly at anyone within striking distance before throwing it about 30 yards onto the other practice field.

"Of course it was his helmet. I wasn't throwing mine," said Thompson, who landed several wicked upper cuts. "It was a miscommunication on his part. He thought I came up and hit him. When I turned around, he hit me in the back. The next time I really did hit him."

Hunter said: "That's not what I wanted, not what I intended to happen. When I got ready to block, he turned his back to me and I hit him. He thought I hit him too hard. He felt like I clipped him. The next play he gave me a shot. When I was walking away, he pushed me. Things happen. All in a day's work."

And the winner was: "Earnest Hunter," said safety Vashone Adams. "Bennie got beat up. Bennie got knocked out."

Marchibroda, meanwhile, said defensive end Anthony Pleasant has improved tremendously since he suffered a badly sprained right ankle early in Sunday's season opener. Pleasant did not practice yesterday. Marchibroda said his status probably would

be determined at game time in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Fullback Carwell Gardner also missed yesterday's practice with a shoulder injury he suffered during Wednesday's workout.

"I'm feeling fine. I just decided to take the day off," Gardner said. "I figured I didn't need to practice."

Gardner is expected to play, and Marchibroda added that if the Ravens were to lose Gardner to an injury, they would be forced to go to a one-back offense. That back would be Earnest Byner, who practiced lightly yesterday as he nursed an ankle injury.

"I told Earnest to rest himself as much as possible to save himself," Marchibroda said. "As long as he can go Sunday, he'll go. He's been through the wars. He's had more winning experience than anybody on this team. . . . He knows how to work, how to prepare."

Stealing from Steelers

Lewis took more than his title of linebackers coach away from Pittsburgh last season.

He borrowed Steelers coach Bill Cowher's preparation.

"I've taken everything from him, especially the preparation part, the practice and what you have to learn," said Lewis. "He was always very thorough, covering every inch. Bill wasn't always worried about what you knew, but what the players knew.

"He made sure every coach on defense knew what the other assistants were teaching. That was his way of making sure we were all on the same page."

Cowher like Ditka?

Pittsburgh quarterback Mike Tomczak, who will start against the Ravens, compared Cowher to Mike Ditka, who coached Tomczak with the Chicago Bears.

"They are both highly competitive and highly emotional," Tomczak said. "Ditka had a tendency to motivate through fear, and Coach Cowher motivates with words.

"Cowher gets in your face and says, 'Hey, I believe in you,' whereas Mike would say, 'Get your butt in the game. If not, you're going to be out of here.' "

Ogden cheers old pal

Ravens rookie guard Jonathan Ogden was happy to see his old UCLA teammate, Karim Abdul-Jabbar, get off to a sensational start with the Miami Dolphins. Abdul-Jabbar, drafted late in the third round, was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after he rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries in Miami's 24-10 victory over the New England Patriots.

"I'm not surprised. He is going to be a good back," said Ogden, who said he believed his old teammate should have been drafted earlier.

"He didn't run that fast of a 40, and he's kind of on the small side [5 feet 10, 194 pounds]," Ogden said. "But he hits the holes just as hard as anybody. He's not going to give you that 90-yard run, but he'll get you a 100-yard game with a hard, honest day's work."

Sunday's game

Ravens (1-0) vs. Steelers (0-1)

Site: Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh

Time: 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WLIF (101.9 FM), WJFK (1300 AM)

Line: Steelers by 4

Pub Date: 9/06/96

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