Left offensive tackle Tony Jones may be playing his last game as a Raven/Cleveland Brown on Sunday at Memorial Stadium against the Houston Oilers after nine years with the two teams.
The Ravens are making the re-signing of center Steve Everitt a top priority, and with rookie guard Jonathan Ogden slated as the left offensive tackle of the future, it might be difficult for the Ravens to keep Jones, who has two years left on contract worth an average of $2.4 million a season.
Jones, 30, said he has not talked with the Ravens about his contract, and team officials won't meet until the second week in January to evaluate the team.
"This looks like it's probably it," said Jones. "I know it's all about business. I've had nine great years with this organization, and this team is going to have some great years to come.
"It is a player's dream to stay with one organization for a long time, and I have. I've seen a lot of boys grow up to be men. But I don't envision taking a pay cut. I've got a family to support, and why should I take a pay cut if I still have to go out there and bust my butt. This is going to be a tough week, and it gets tougher as the game gets closer."
Jones has long been the spokesman for the offensive line and over the years tutored some of the younger players like Everitt, right tackle Orlando Brown and right guard/center Wally Williams, who are entering their prime.
"Tony taught guys like myself and Orlando, who were rookies together, how to get through training camp," said Williams. "He has meant everything to my career, from how we prepare to how we approach a game. I don't know what's going to happen with him; I heard there is a 50/50 chance he would return."
"But I think the owner and Ozzie Newsome [vice president of football personnel] understand what he has meant to the players and to this team," said Williams. "I don't think I have to go to them to explain that."
Hoard on the run
Since former Ravens running back Leroy Hoard became a starter for the Minnesota Vikings, the Vikings are 4-1. Hoard has rushed for 379 yards since becoming a Viking, and has three rushing touchdowns while averaging 4.3 yards a carry.
The Ravens cut Hoard nearly three months ago on the day they signed Bam Morris to replace him.
"I don't ever think there was a question that he could play," said Everitt. "He was our workhorse in 1994. It is just a matter of finding the right system. He is like any back. Get him some carries to help get him rolling. He is taking off. You've got to be happy for Leroy."
Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde says this season has been more frustrating than a year ago when the Browns finished 5-11 and moved from Cleveland to Baltimore.
The Ravens, who are 4-11, have had second-half leads in their last 10 games, but have lost eight.
"You come so close to victory all those times," said Testaverde. "Jacksonville comes to mind. If they win this weekend, they go to the playoffs. We could have been in that same position. It's hard to be here at this time and not being able to get to the playoffs. You work hard to get through training camp, then the regular season. It's more frustrating than a year ago."
Former Maryland standout and H-back Frank Wycheck leads the Oilers in receptions with 50 for 491 yards and six touchdowns. But Wycheck went through a three- to four-week period when he was no longer Houston's go-to guy. "He is really having a good year," said Houston coach Jeff Fisher. "There was that three- to four- week period when people were writing about him not being the favorite receiver anymore, but Frank has bounced back and I can't say enough about him. You have to give him a lot of credit."
Pub Date: 12/19/96