Newest role for Sutter: starter Ravens backup will fill in at linebacker for injured Lewis vs. 49ers

November 13, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Eddie Sutter has spent four NFL seasons as a backup. On Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, Sutter will take on a new assignment, when he replaces injured Ravens rookie Ray Lewis as the starting left inside linebacker.

The Ravens decided to promote Sutter rather than risk further injury to Lewis, who suffered a sprained left ankle early in Sunday's 30-27 loss to Jacksonville. Lewis, a first-round draft pick, wore a soft cast and was on crutches at the team complex in Owings Mills yesterday. He has started every game and is the team's leading tackler with 94.

Sutter, a fifth-year player out of Northwestern who went undrafted in 1992 and has made a living primarily as a special teams performer, will make his first start in 57 career games.

Sutter has enjoyed a part-time role in the Ravens' short-yardage and goal-line defense this year. He is third on the team with seven special teams tackles. He also has produced some fine moments on the goal line, none more memorable than his takedown of St. Louis running back Lawrence Phillips on a fourth-down play during the Ravens' 37-31 overtime victory on Oct. 27.

"I'm the football version of a goon in hockey," Sutter said. "I basically come in to plug holes in short yardage and fly around on special teams. It's a do-or-die type of deal. This is something I've been looking forward to for a long time. It's a big challenge for us and for me, going out to play San Francisco. I prepare myself well each week, I have a lot of confidence in myself, and I'm ready to go."

"There's no question that I think Eddie will be more than ready to go," said defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. "It's a big moment for him and a big moment for us.

"For our benefit and for Ray's benefit in the future, it's probably best that we work without him this week."

The Ravens have worked Sutter into the mix more in recent weeks. Against Cincinnati on Nov. 3, he played for a series at inside linebacker -- where he has recorded 11 tackles and a batted pass this year -- while Lewis rested on the sidelines. Last week in Jacksonville, he played some while Lewis struggled to make it through the game after spraining his ankle on the eighth play.

Sutter, 6 feet 3, 235 pounds, played at Northwestern from 1988-91, recording 441 tackles as an inside linebacker. He ranks second in career tackles on the school's all-time list.

"I'm used to fighting through adversity," said Sutter, who spent his rookie NFL season in 1992 on the Cleveland Browns' practice roster after getting released by Minnesota after training camp.

"The backup gets his chance if he sticks around in the league long enough," he said. "Once you're listed as a backup in training camp, you usually don't control your own destiny. It's up to the guys in front of you to do their job or stay healthy. If not, you get your shot."

"Eddie does an excellent job with his role on this team," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "After your starters, those are the kind of guys you want, guys who give you everything they have and do an excellent job on special teams, work every minute on the practice field and don't cause any problems."

NOTES: As early as today, the Ravens are expected to announce the signings of rookies Larry Williams (defensive end) and Richard Thomas (fullback), each of whom was cut after training camp, to their developmental squad. That will increase the size of their practice roster to four. Center Steve Everitt (torn pectoral muscle), who has missed the past three games, had hoped to return this week. But offensive line coach Kirk Ferentz said, "It would take a minor miracle for that to happen."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: San Francisco 49ers

Site: 3Com Park, San Francisco

When: Sunday, 4 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: 49ers by 12

Pub Date: 11/13/96

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