Ravens still waiting for payoff on Green Lingering knee injury limits tight end's work

November 27, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

When the Ravens signed Eric Green to a one-year contract two months ago, they knew they were getting a proven talent with a damaged left knee, and they figured they were adding a guy who would soon become the team's top tight end.

Things have not worked out as planned for Green. He has yet to displace veteran Brian Kinchen as the Ravens' No. 1 tight end. And he has yet to shake off the soreness in his knee.

Green, who did not dress for Sunday's 28-25 overtime loss to Jacksonville after playing in four straight games, wore a dejected look yesterday at the Ravens' Owings Mills complex, where he stopped by to receive treatment on his knee.

"It's very discouraging, but a silver lining is going to come out of this," said Green, who had arthroscopic surgery on May 2. "I want to be here for years to come. If it takes staying here and rehabbing for the better part of the off-season, I'll do it. I'd play for [coach] Ted [Marchibroda] seven days a week, and this is the perfect offense for me."

When they signed the 6-foot-5, 280-pound player on Sept. 23, the Ravens envisioned a perfect fit. Green, a seven-year veteran who made the Pro Bowl with Pittsburgh in 1993 and 1994 before playing in Miami last year, had more touchdown receptions (27) over the past six seasons than any other tight end except Green Bay's Keith Jackson.

Since entering the lineup on Oct. 20 in Denver, Green has been only a mild factor, catching 13 passes for 147 yards. He has yet to score a touchdown.

He was forced to sit out Sunday's game after his knee soreness flared up following the Ravens' 38-20 loss in San Francisco 10 days ago. Green, who has not practiced since before that game, is questionable for Sunday's game against Pittsburgh.

Marchibroda and Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel, said that Green played his best game against the 49ers. That day, Green caught two passes for 26 yards, blocked well and ran more plays than his previous three games.

In retrospect, Green said, he erred by increasing his practice work too rapidly during the week leading up to the San Francisco game.

"I felt so good that week, it was like nothing had ever happened to my knee, and I wanted to get more [practice] reps to show the coaches I was ready to go," Green said. "It's tough sitting on the sidelines. I'll never grow accustomed to it. But I shouldn't have gone all out like that. I've got to be smarter. After the San Francisco game, it got real sore again."

Said Newsome: "Obviously, his health has not been what he and we would have liked. We've tried to do as good a job as we can to get him the work he needs to be effective for us on Sundays, without putting too much pressure on the knee. It might have been too much."

Marchibroda did not sound confident that Green would be available on Sunday, although he added that his status depends on how -- and if -- he practices over the next three days. Green's problems have made it difficult for Marchibroda to evaluate him.

"It isn't a question of whether he can play. It's a question of is he healthy enough to play," Marchibroda said. "We were excited to get a player of Eric's caliber. We also knew there was a risk involved because of his injury. We were willing to take that gamble."

Newsome said the Ravens might be willing to take another chance on Green.

"I'm always the optimist. What happens if he takes two months off after the season with very limited activity and rehabs the knee?" Newsome said. "I'm very interested in re-signing him for next year. But we've still got to answer the health question."

NOTE: Marchibroda talked with Jerry Seaman, the NFL's director of officiating. Upon further review, the coach was told the Ravens were justified in their complaints about some of the calls that went against them in Sunday's loss to Jacksonville. "He said the normal things," Marchibroda said. "He said we were correct in our assessment of some of the calls. There wasn't anything new I could say."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers

Site: Memorial Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line: Steelers by 6

Last meeting: Steelers beat Ravens, 31-17, on Sept. 8 in Pittsburgh

Pub Date: 11/27/96

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