Jeff Blackshear will start in place of injured right guard Wally Williams tomorrow when the Ravens face the Oilers at the Astrodome in Houston.
Williams, a three-year starter, sprained an ankle during Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Williams practiced yesterday for the first time this week, but Blackshear took most of the repetitions with the first team.
"We have the bye next week so I guess they see it as a chance let me fully heal," said Williams. "But I don't see myself sitting down unless they tell me to."
Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda announced the decision yesterday. Blackshear wasn't surprised.
"They haven't told me yet, but on Monday they told me I would be playing a lot," said the 6-foot-6, 323-pound lineman. "I've been waiting to see what was going to happen."
"I played against Houston two years ago in Houston, but this is a different team," he said. "They have a lot of young players, and they play hard together."
Blackshear was traded from the Seattle Seahawks to the Ravens on March 12 for a fourth-round choice in the 1997 draft.
In 1994, he started all 16 games at left guard for the Seahawks and did not miss a play. But in 1995, Blackshear was involved in a contract holdout at the beginning of training camp.
He missed crucial time and didn't regain his starting position until the last three games of the regular season.
"I've gone from playing to not playing at all," said Blackshear, 27. "It's just one of the things. I just try to work and practice hard every day so I'll be ready to go. You never know when you're going to be called on."
Byner running hard
Barring injury, Earnest Byner will start at running back against the Oilers, but Leroy Hoard will get a lot of work, too.
Hoard started against the Steelers last Sunday when Byner hurt his foot on the opening kickoff. Hoard rushed for 54 yards on 13 carries. Byner, though, showed few effects from the injury this week in practice.
"He ran with the first team for most of the entire week," said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda. "I'm sure he is still a little sore, but Earnest had a good week of work."
Reserve safety Bennie Thompson (groin) and starting outside linebacker Mike Caldwell (knee) are questionable, and their status will be determined at game time.
If Caldwell can't play, he will be replaced by Jerroll Williams. Caldwell is the team's third-leading tackler with 16, and Williams has five. Both have one sack.
Starting defensive end Anthony Pleasant will not play for a second straight week because of a sprained ankle.
Marchibroda said he noticed a different tempo in practice this week after his talk with the team about its lack of veteran leadership.
"I think they realized coming off last week that they have to practice the way they did in training camp," he said. "You can play your best ball and still lose in this league. We have practiced well and I think we're focused."
Wycheck settles in
Former Maryland H-back Frank Wycheck is tied with wide receiver Derek Russell for the Oilers' lead in receptions with six. Wycheck has 55 yards, Russell 86.
"This is a great situation for me," said Wycheck, picked up off the waiver wire last August after he was released by the Washington Redskins. "Things didn't work out too much for me in Washington.
"I came down here tying to work real hard, and I found a home in this offense, which I truly love."
Houston running back Eddie George, the reigning Heisman (( Trophy winner, seems to be adjusting to life in the NFL smoothly. After rushing for 143 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries last week in the Oilers' 34-27 victory over Jacksonville, he looks pretty comfortable.
Playing at the Astrodome has been an adjustment for George, though. As a star at Ohio State, he played in front of huge, sellout crowds. The Oilers, bound for Nashville, Tenn., in two years, have yet to play in front of 30,000.
"We always had 96,000 strong [at Ohio State]," George said. "'But that's a stable program."
Ravens wide receiver Calvin Williams and tight end Harold Bishop exchanged jersey numbers, Williams getting No. 89 and Bishop No. 80.
Rookie left guard Jonathan Ogden (No. 75) wants No. 79, the former jersey of defensive tackle Larry Webster, who was suspended for the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Ogden wore No. 79 at UCLA.
Pub Date: 9/14/96