Everitt eager to play a part again After 5-game absence, center gets to 'vent' against Steelers

November 30, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Life on the sidelines has been torture for Steve Everitt.

The 1996 season threw the Ravens' center a curveball six weeks ago, when Everitt tore a pectoral muscle in the fourth quarter of a 45-34 loss in Denver.

Up to that point, Everitt had been playing the best football of his four-year career. Since then, he has spent most of his days in the training and weight rooms, recovering from his injury.

And when he takes the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow after missing five games, Everitt will feel like a free man again.

"This is the first time I've had to deal with being put on a shelf for a month. It's been misery," said Everitt, who will not start but could play as early as the second quarter. "You sit in on team meetings, and go on some road trips, but you're so far removed from the team. Sundays are the worst.

"You get tired of coaches asking you things like how did the [exercise] bike feel today. It's nice to answer football questions again.

"I've been keeping a lot inside. Finally, I'll be able to vent. It's going to feel like an explosion when I run my first play. I'll probably go the wrong way."

Everitt had not done much wrong before he got hurt pass blocking against Denver defensive tackle Jumpy Geathers.

Through his first seven games, he had anchored one of the top offensive lines in the NFL, while the Ravens were putting up some of the league's most impressive offensive numbers.

While the Ravens' defense has struggled compensating for too many injuries, the offensive line has marched on in Everitt's absence.

Veteran guard Wally Williams has filled in capably for Everitt, and Jeff Blackshear has replaced Williams effectively at right guard.

"We felt we had depth up front coming into the season, and the last few weeks have proved that," coach Ted Marchibroda said. "Steve brings that leadership and football mentality we like. It will be good to get him back."

"We miss him," veteran left tackle Tony Jones said.

"Steve is a big part of this offense and this offensive line. He makes all of the calls on the line, and he has that mental toughness, that aggressiveness, on the field. Before he got hurt, he was playing better than I've ever seen him play."

Before he got hurt, Everitt had missed only two games in his career. He had started all but three games. And he had never missed two games in a row.

The toughest adjustment was coming to the team's Owings Mills complex every day, knowing he could not practice. Sitting in on team meetings helped keep him in touch, but most of his days centered around rehabilitation.

Everitt even traveled with the Ravens to Jacksonville for their Nov. 10 game.

But, after feeling helpless and useless, he decided he could not bear going to San Francisco the following week. All season, he had dreamed about taking on 49ers defensive tackles Bryant Young and Dana Stubblefield.

"One thing that helped me get through this was watching some tape of the earlier games, where I could see myself getting the job done," Everitt said.

"It's not that I take the game for granted. But to have the game taken away from you while you're playing well is tough to take."

Asked if he might be a little rusty, Everitt said no.

"The way I see it, I got hurt in my seventh game, and I'm going to act like this is my eighth game," he said.

"If I had to pick a game to come back in, this is the one. Playing these guys in front of the home crowd, with us needing a win so bad, it would be great to take away the game from them. It's the perfect script."

NOTES: Yesterday's practice was interrupted by a fight between offensive tackle Orlando Brown and defensive back Donny Brady, who, despite being outweighed by about 150 pounds, took off his helmet and punched Brown. The big man responded with a few hits. He also took Brady's helmet and nearly used it against him. The unlikely fighters shook hands and laughed about the incident after practice. "Boys are boys. No apologies needed," Brady said. Fullback Carwell Gardner, who has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury, practiced yesterday and could play tomorrow. Tight end Eric Green (knee) was upgraded from doubtful to questionable for the game, as was defensive tackle Dan Footman, who has not played since fracturing his forearm against Indianapolis on Oct. 13.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers

Site: Memorial Stadium

When: Tomorrow, 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: 11/30/96

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