Ex-mate's comments inspire Thompson Ravens safety, incensed by Rison, stings Jaguars with big plays, big hits

November 11, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Ravens safety Bennie Thompson is not the type of player who needs extra motivation on game day, but that's precisely what he received when he picked up a copy of the local sports section yesterday.

Thompson's breakfast did not go down smoothly, not after he read comments by Jacksonville wide receiver Andre Rison -- a teammate of Thompson's in Cleveland last year -- in the Florida Times-Union. Rison, whom the Ravens released shortly before training camp, took some shots at his former teammates.

"I was never received well in the locker room because they had a lot of jealous-head punks on the team who were more concerned with what I was taking home than what I was doing for the team," Rison told the Times-Union.

The way Thompson saw it, Rison's five-year, $17 million contract with the Browns, which included a $5 million signing bonus, was not an issue. But Rison's words carried a sting that Thompson brought to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.

Thompson produced his most inspired performance of the season in yesterday's 30-27 loss to the Jaguars. He tied for the team high with six tackles, including three sacks of quarterback Mark Brunell, and a heavy dose of Thompson's trademark trash-talking, much of it directed at Rison.

"Some guys on this team read the paper, and I read those comments when I got up this morning," Thompson said. "I took it personally. You need to get in people's faces and let them know that's my style of football. Andre and I are friends from way back, but he's my enemy when the whistle blows."

Thompson, a seven-year veteran who has made his mark as a special teams hitter, played more on defense -- in the Ravens' nickel and dime pass coverages -- than he has all year. And he responded with big plays down the stretch when the Ravens were backed up against their goal line.

Thompson was most effective as a linebacker, spying the moves of the elusive Brunell. Early in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars had driven 90 yards to the Ravens' 2, where they had first-and-goal with the Ravens leading 20-13. On first down, safety Stevon Moore dropped a scrambling Brunell for a 3-yard loss. On the next play, Thompson chased Brunell down for a 2-yard loss. The Jaguars settled for a field goal.

Then, after the Ravens had extended their lead to 27-16 with 6: 23 left, the Jaguars drove 90 yards to cut the lead to 27-22. Thompson delayed the score by sacking Brunell for a 3-yard loss at the Ravens' 8.

"Brunell is a tough guy to bring down in the open field, and I thought Bennie did a real good job making plays on him today," Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "He wants to be the guy in there making those plays and he's worked hard at that spot."

Thompson's first sack of Brunell came in the first half, and it involved a scary moment. As Brunell left the pocket and dashed up the middle, Thompson met him head-on. Brunell got up. Thompson lay on the ground for a minute, then left the field with pain in his neck and back. He turned and yelled at the Jaguars as he walked off, then was back a few plays later.

"That's one guy I'd always go to war with. Everybody knows Bennie is a warrior," safety Eric Turner said. "He knows how to come back from an injury and play through the pain."

Thompson was especially demonstrative with gestures yesterday, particularly toward Rison and even wide receiver Keenan McCardell, another former Browns teammate who left via free agency last spring.

Thompson drew back-to-back unnecessary-roughness penalties involving McCardell during the drive that cut the Ravens' lead to 27-22. After a catch by McCardell in the middle of the drive, Thompson and McCardell got into a shoving match in front of the Jaguars' bench.

Then, after Brunell and running back James Stewart hooked up for an 8-yard touchdown pass, both teams rumbled briefly in the end zone. The scuffle started with Thompson and Rison.

"I pushed him [Rison]. I didn't throw a punch. You can't get tossed if you don't throw a punch," said Thompson, who shook hands and chatted briefly with Rison after the game.

"I told Andre I still love him. It wasn't a Magic Johnson-Isiah [Thomas] thing. When the game is over, there are no hard feelings. But once the game starts, there is no love, regardless of how much money you make."

Thompson leaned back against his locker, in obvious pain. He is due to get X-rays on his neck today.

"I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight," he said. "Even if I didn't get hurt. With the way we lost today, I'd feel the same way right now."

Pub Date: 11/11/96

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