After unlucky start, Turner makes mark Receiver seeking third straight 100-yard game Sunday against Jaguars

November 06, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Judging by his past three games, Ravens wide receiver Floyd Turner could be in for the most productive second half of any season in his eight-year NFL career.

Turner already is certain of this much. Nothing could be as frustrating or strange as the luck that followed him after he signed a one-year deal with the Ravens last summer, a week before training camp.

Between his July 10 signing and his insertion into the lineup against Denver last month -- when Turner took the job from the since-released Calvin Williams -- Turner's life took enough turns to fit into a soap opera.

First, there was his aborted attempt to report to camp. When Turner arrived in Baltimore, he discovered that the Ravens had not forwarded his contract to the NFL by the July 15 deadline.

As camp opened in mid-July, Turner sat in a Pikesville hotel room, while the Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts, whom he had played for the previous two years under Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, fought over his services.

After the league ruled Turner belonged to the Ravens, he came to camp, where his luck took another dive before he could make it through his first week. Cornerback Donny Brady shoved him out of bounds after a routine catch, but Turner took a bad step and injured his left knee.

He needed arthroscopic surgery, and there went the preseason. He returned in the exhibition finale in Buffalo, where his knee soreness flared up, and he strained his left calf shortly after that. Turner missed the season's first three games.

"It was frustrating, a little confusing, and it got worse from there," said Turner.

"I remember sitting in my hotel room watching a movie, and I couldn't believe this was happening," he said. "Less than six months ago [with the Colts], I was one play away from the Super Bowl, and today I don't even know where I'm going to play. Then it's like the next day I'm on the field, then the next day I'm in surgery. Then, I finally get on my feet and I hurt my calf.

"At that point, I'm thinking, 'What have I done wrong? What did I do in my past to deserve this?' "

Turner laughs about those dark times now. Three strong games as the slot man in the Ravens' three-receiver set have taken the sting out of those days.

How quickly has Turner fit in? Consider that in his previous seven years, during which he fashioned a reputation as a smart, sure-handed role player, Turner had two 100-yard games to his credit. When he lines up to face Jacksonville on Sunday, Turner will be going for his third straight 100-yard performance.

"It's been a relief," said Turner, who in the last three games has caught 19 passes for 257 yards and scored two touchdowns to complement fellow receivers Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander nicely.

"My first game back [in Denver on Oct. 20], I was just trying to catch the ball. My second game, I was looking to run after the catch. Now, I'm really feeling comfortable in the offense. I was just glad to get in there finally, make some plays and give Vinny [quarterback Testaverde] a reason to be confident in me."

Marchibroda's confidence in Turner was never in doubt. When Turner left New Orleans -- the team that selected him in the sixth round of the 1989 draft -- for the Colts in 1994, he became a dangerous weapon in Marchibroda's offense. Over the next two years, Turner caught 87 passes for 1,024 yards and 10 touchdowns. He added two more scores in the Colts' playoff run last year.

"I knew what we were getting when we got Floyd," Marchibroda said. "I like having him in the middle of our offense, and he's the quickest of our receivers off the line of scrimmage. He knows what it takes to win. He's like an Earnest Byner at wide receiver."

Ravens receivers coach Mike Sheppard likes the package Turner brings -- the way he keeps his 5-foot-11, 200-pound frame in excellent shape, the way he asks the right questions in team meetings, the way he blocks, the way he exploits mismatches in the middle of the field, the way he prepares for each play.

"I like guys with staying power, and he has a lot of it," Sheppard said. "He trains well, and when he gets here [for the workday], he's ready to go. A true professional."

Turner knew he had a built-in advantage -- the Marchibroda connection -- when he signed with the Ravens. But from Testaverde to Sheppard, he also knew he had plenty of people to win over.

"There was still a circle around me as the new guy," Turner said. "Even though I already had played for Ted and he knew what I could do, I still had to convince new teammates and a new coaching staff. I think I'm doing that."

NOTES: If cornerback Antonio Langham does not recover from his right hamstring pull this week, rookie DeRon Jenkins will start in his place against Jacksonville. As the Cleveland Browns last year, the Ravens went 0-2 against the Jaguars. Tight end Eric Green was limited on Sunday by soreness in his knee, but that is not expected to affect his practice routine this week.

Pub Date: 11/06/96

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