Ravens make Morris the one RB replaces Byner in starting lineup against Jaguars

November 07, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

It became official yesterday: Bam Morris is the feature back in the Ravens' one-back offensive set.

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda made the announcement yesterday after the team's first practice of the week in preparation for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Morris, 24, will replace Earnest Byner, 34, who rushed for 559 yards on 141 attempts after starting the team's first nine games.

"We couldn't just throw him in there, especially with the no-huddle, because there was a lot of things to learn," said Marchibroda, who ran some of the two-back set formation, teaming Morris with 6-foot-2, 240-pound fullback Carwell Gardner. "But we're at the point where we think Bam is ready.

"I talked to Earnest last week, and maybe I'll talk to him again about the decision," said Marchibroda. "There is no question that when Bam gets in the game, he gives us a lift. He's a big strong runner, and he'll get about 15 to 20 attempts a game."

Morris, 6 feet and 250 pounds, spent most of the practice yesterday working with the first team. Since signing with the Ravens almost six weeks ago, he had been relatively quiet about gaining the starting role.

During the past two weeks, though, Morris has played well, rushing for 56 yards and two touchdowns on six carries against the St. Louis Rams and 48 yards on 11 attempts last week against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Fans at Memorial Stadium started chanting "Bam" last week before he entered the game and after long runs, and owner Art Modell expressed a desire to see Morris in the lineup three days ago.

"The decision has always been up to the coaches and the front-office people," said Morris. "I had just planned to do anything to help out.

"Now this gives me a chance to get some run action early, to get into a rhythm with the offensive line," said Morris. "If it means I'll only run the ball 20 times to make our offense effective, then that's what I'll do. If I've got to bang it 30 times, then I'll bang it."

Morris got the first word of his starting assignment yesterday morning from Byner after the veteran running back met with position coach Al Lavan.

"Earnest told me I was the man now," said Morris. "I said, 'Nah, you're still the man.' He said, 'Not anymore. I just got the call.' A few minutes later, I was getting called upstairs."

Lavan said: "We didn't want to leave a situation unclear. Earnest Byner did not lose the starting position. Bam Morris earned the job because each week he had a high level of performance. Each week his skill level became higher adding something to our offense."

Byner, 6 feet, 215 pounds, will now move into another role, but not an unfamiliar one. He will become the third-down back and continue his special team's duties.

That was his role going into training camp in mid-July, playing behind Leroy Hoard and Earnest Hunter. But when the season started, Byner was No. 1, Hoard No. 2 and Hunter No. 3. Both Hoard and Hunter were eventually cut, Hoard being waived to sign Morris.

"It will be interesting to see what Bam can do with the ball in his hands," said Byner.

"Bam showed that he can run through people. My forte is cutting, setting up blocks and linemen. I'm not going to pout. I don't want to be a distraction. I can still help this team.

"If Bam fails, I will be waiting. That's the kind of career I have inherited now. I gained 559 yards while I was the starter; that's not bad."

NOTE: Cornerback Antonio Langham (hamstring), center Steve Everitt (shoulder), linebacker Jerrol Williams (knee) and defensive end Anthony Pleasant (personal problems) did not dTC practice yesterday. Langham, though, said his test revealed that his leg had most of its strength, and he might be ready to practice by Friday. Everitt is out for Sunday's game.

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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