Jenkins picks up a few lessons from Rice Wide receiver blows past rookie cornerback for 34-yard, 2nd-quarter score


November 18, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF Vito Stellino and Dave Reddy contributed to this article.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ravens rookie cornerback DeRon Jenkins got his first taste of life on an NFL corner two weeks ago, when Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro Carl Pickens taught him a few lessons. Yesterday, it was Jenkins' turn to learn at the hand of the master.

Last week, as Jenkins prepared to make his third straight start in place of the injured Antonio Langham, he said he caught himself thinking in awe of San Francisco 49ers future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice.

Rice justified his fear on the first play of the second quarter, when he blew past Jenkins on a fly pattern down the right sideline before catching a 34-yard touchdown pass from Elvis Grbac that gave the 49ers a 16-7 lead.

It was the end of a tough sequence for Jenkins. On the play before the Rice touchdown, he failed to push rookie receiver Terrell Owens out of bounds after a short completion on an out pattern. Owens scampered down the sideline for a 35-yard gain, setting up Rice's score.

"The biggest thing for a young cornerback to do is to come back after a big play has been made against you. That's the hard part about this league," said Jenkins, a second-round pick out of Tennessee who regrouped to play decently down the stretch. He recorded six solo tackles with some strong plays against the run.

"When I was in college, I was used to dominating week in and week out," he added. "Sometimes I would go through a whole game without having a ball thrown on the guy I was covering. In this league, all of the guys across from you are getting paid the big money, and you have to be prepared for them to make the big plays against you."

As for his first up-close look at Rice, Jenkins said: "He's what I expected from a great receiver. He's precise. He works hard coming out of his breaks and he has deceptive speed. On Sundays, he turns it on. He got me early, but after the first quarter or so, I got a little more in tune with the game, and he just became another good receiver I had to play."

James Jones gets open

Early in the third quarter, James Jones lined up as the blocking back in the Ravens' goal-line offense, in place of the injured Carwell Gardner. On second-and-goal at the 2, he peeled off into the right flat, where backup quarterback Eric Zeier found him for a go-ahead score, giving the Ravens a short-lived 20-17 lead.

"I was the second option on the play, and I wasn't expecting to be that wide-open," said the 6-foot-2, 290-pound Jones. "It seemed like it took him [Zeier] a few hours to find me. I just thank God I held onto the ball."

Pleasant on the move

Defensive end Anthony Pleasant set up Jones' touchdown by recovering a fumble by Terry Kirby and returning it 36 yards down the left sideline to the 49ers' 3. Watching the 6-5, 280-pound Pleasant weave his way downfield was enough to make fans forget that his season has been all but ruined by a sprained ankle he suffered on the first play of the season opener Sept. 1.

"It's been a long time since I smelled the end zone, probably since little league ball," Pleasant said. "My legs are not used to going the distance."

Sutter makes start

Eddie Sutter made the first start of his five-year NFL career, replacing the injured Ray Lewis. Sutter recorded six tackles, including five solo, and had his hands full trying -- mostly unsuccessfully -- to cover tight end Brent Jones.

"Obviously, I wanted to play well, but it was a nice feeling just being out there and playing a lot," said Sutter, who added that the 49ers' execution of counter plays sets them apart from typical offenses.

"They don't give you a lot of formations and they don't play too much smashmouth, but they hit you with a lot of misdirection and play-action stuff," he said.

Quieting the mayor

One week after Grbac's game-turning interception against the Dallas Cowboys prompted San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to call Grbac "an embarrassment to humankind," the quarterback and his teammates said the Brown episode is behind them.

"The great thing about it was that the entire community got behind the team," said Grbac, who received an apology by phone from Brown on Friday. "The call put this thing to rest."

Certainly, Brown would hope so, too. Bay Area talk shows and newspaper columns were filled with angry comments about the mayor, who made the comments to reporters in a teleconference call from Paris last Tuesday.

But Brown had to be happy with Grbac's performance yesterday. Starting in place of the injured Steve Young, Grbac completed 26 of 31 passes for 268 yards.

Then again, you have to wonder what Brown thought of those two interceptions.

Floyd in swing

San Francisco running back William Floyd scored his first touchdown since returning from a severe right knee injury he suffered one year ago.

Floyd returned to action Oct. 20 against the Bengals, but he didn't get into the end zone until the third quarter yesterday, when he gave the 49ers a 24-20 lead with a 1-yard run. He celebrated by heaving the ball into the stands.

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