Perhaps the Ravens should put aside the usual promotions and turn to something more daring for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams. How about the first 20 or so fans who enter the gates at Memorial Stadium be allowed to suit up and play?
A healthy body is a healthy body. The Ravens are in no position to be picky.
Offensive linemen Jonathan Ogden and Steve Everitt are the latest casualties. Ogden sprained his knee midway through the second quarter of Sunday's 45-34 loss in Denver, and Everitt left in the fourth quarter with a torn pectoral muscle.
Ogden was limping in the locker room at the Ravens' Owings Mills complex yesterday. "It's real sore, but hopefully I'll be back by this week," he said.
Everitt had a magnetic resonance imaging test yesterday that revealed a partial tear. The Ravens will see how he's feeling tomorrow before determining his status.
For a team beset with injuries, this was considered good news.
The Ravens already were missing offensive left tackle Tony Jones, whose string of 105 consecutive starts ended because of an injury to his left ankle. "That was the hardest thing for me to do," he said of sitting out Sunday's loss. "I'll just try to get healthy. I feel a lot better than last week, but I still don't know if I'll be ready."
The defense is even more troubled. The line has lost two starters, tackle Dan Footman (fractured forearm) and end Rob Burnett (knee), for the season. Linebacker Mike Caldwell (knee) and free safety Eric Turner (ankle) didn't play against the Broncos, who amassed a team-record 548 yards against the Ravens' patchwork unit.
With little room under the salary cap, there's little the Ravens can do.
Because of a shortage of healthy linemen, they switched to a 3-4 against the Broncos, and may use the same formation against the Rams. That was just one of the subjects broached yesterday during a meeting of coach Ted Marchibroda and his staff, as they sifted through ideas on how to improve the 3-4 defense. The Ravens have given up 117 points in the past three games.
"If there would be just one thing, I'd say we have to become a little more aggressive," Marchibroda said. "I think sometimes we're a little hesitant because of the new system, the learning aspect. We just have to become a little more aggressive, and if we make a mistake, make a big mistake, make it going all out."
"We're playing tentative," said rookie linebacker Ray Lewis. "You can see guys holding back."
"When you're faced with new defensive schemes," said cornerback Antonio Langham, "you're more concerned about making sure you're in the right position and making the right call, instead of just playing football. We're reacting a lot, but we're still having to think a little."
Langham said injuries are a "big explanation" for why the Ravens are giving up so many points. But, he added, "that's why you carry 50 guys."
The only immediate help could come from Turner, who might be available this weekend after missing the past two games. "That would be a plus for us," Marchibroda said. "I can't honestly say at this point that he'll be back, but I know every week that goes by, we're closer to having him back. And we need him."
The Ravens need something. They've given up 201 points, the third-highest total in the NFL behind the two remaining winless teams, the New York Jets (212) and Atlanta Falcons (207). But Ozzie Newsome, vice president of player personnel, said he's not looking for defensive help this week.
The silver lining is quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who may be playing his best football as a professional. He had the first four-touchdown game of his career Sunday, giving him 15 against seven interceptions. He's completing almost 60 percent of his passes, and coming closer to meeting his vast potential than at any time since leaving the University of Miami.
Is he the long-term answer at quarterback for the Ravens? "The way he's played the last four ballgames, I'd say yes," Marchibroda said.
"I think we've relaxed Vinny a little bit. He's enjoying the game more so now than he ever has. He certainly could enjoy it more if we were winning."
Having scored 93 points in their past three games, the Ravens should be winning. Instead, they are 0-3 during that span.
"The offense is carrying us," Langham said. "We've got to pick it up defensively, and we've got to pick it up in a hurry."
"We know the defense is banged up," said receiver Michael Jackson. "If we have to score 50 points, we have to score 50.
"The positive thing is we know we're capable of beating every team we've played."
Lewis said it would bother him more if the defense were doing everything correctly and still getting burned. "But when you know what you did was wrong, it can get better. When you know the problems, just cure them and go on," he said.
That's the attitude Marchibroda is looking for, the attitude that comforts him during these trying times.
"I feel good about our football team. I think we're on the right road," he said.
"We're three games out with nine to go, and that's not too severe of a situation. And we play the teams [Pittsburgh and Houston] that are in front of us. To a large extent, it's really up to us and anything can happen."
NOTE: Marchibroda said he could see the potential in tight end Eric Green, who made his Ravens debut Sunday and caught three passes for 30 yards, and running back Bam Morris, who gained 15 yards on four carries, but he also could detect the rust that accumulated during their layoffs. "They're not quite there yet," he said, "but I think they'll get better with every ballgame, and they'll contribute."
Pub Date: 10/22/96