Ravens ponder hole in middle Everitt's departure is felt in locker room as well as on field

Williams likely to get job

Free agents may get shot to crack lineup

March 07, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens may look to the free-agent market to fill the void left by center Steve Everitt, although offensive line coach Kirk Ferentz expects the team to stick with Wally Williams as Everitt's replacement.

"Wally is a Raven. He knows our offense, we know him and he knows us," Ferentz said. "Our thinking all along has been Wally is our center if we lose Steve. He did a good job when he had to replace Steve last year. I don't want to make a blanket statement, but I don't know if we can find anybody better [than Williams on the market]."

Williams, 6 feet 2 and 305 pounds, has been with the franchise since the Cleveland Browns signed him as a free agent out of Florida A&M in the spring of 1993.

He started 40 consecutive games at center over four collegiate seasons before backing up Everitt in Cleveland in 1993. By 1995, Williams had won the job at left guard.

Last year, with the arrival of rookie Jonathan Ogden, Williams moved to right guard, but started the last nine games at center after Everitt tore a pectoral muscle and missed most of the season's second half.

Everitt's departure leaves the Ravens with only four linemen among the seven that formed one of the league's deepest units in 1996. Left tackle Tony Jones was traded to Denver for a second-round pick in next month's draft. Herman Arvie, a key backup, was cut after several doctors told the Ravens that Arvie's spinal-cord condition was too risky for him to continue playing.

Ogden will move to left tackle, with Orlando Brown remaining a fixture at right tackle. Jeff Blackshear, whose new contract with the Ravens should be signed by Monday, will play at one guard position. He made 12 starts on the right side last year.

Ferentz says Sale Isaia, a little-used backup last year, is an excellent prospect, but the Ravens likely will try to sign either Leo Goeas or Ricky Siglar -- free agents who visited the team two days ago -- to plug the hole at the other guard.

While Everitt was being introduced as the Philadelphia Eagles' new center yesterday, his loss was felt in the Ravens' locker room.

"I ain't no sentimental guy, but I'm going to miss Steve. He was one of the first guys I met [on the team], and we got tight right away," said Brown, one of Everitt's close friends. "A lot of people like Steve, with that long hair and those tattoos. I'm going to miss his jokes and the way he would act wild in the meetings and crazy on the field. It's going to be different around here without him."

Everitt said saying goodbye to friends like Brown was one of the more distasteful parts about leaving for Philadelphia. In the end, though, there were too many other reasons not to stick around -- such as the franchise's 9-23 record over the past two years.

"I did my time here, and I enjoyed a lot of it. I've made some of my best friends here," Everitt said. "But there was too much to gain from the opportunity to go somewhere else. It's not like I can't point to reasons why not to come back. I don't know if these people are going to make the right decisions down the road. Look at their track record."

The Ravens open their 11-week off-season program on Monday. Strength and conditioning coach Jerry Simmons expects 35 players, about 95 percent of the team's signed players, to participate initially. The team also has hired a nutritionist, Sue James.

Moore working out here

Strong safety Stevon Moore is a free agent, although he can be found lifting weights and playing racquetball almost daily at the Ravens' Owings Mills complex.

Moore said he expects to visit the New York Jets soon and could be making future stops in Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Seattle.

"The chances are pretty good that I'll be back [with the Ravens], but I've got to check out all of my options," Moore said.

Safety search

The Ravens, who have only one safety on their roster in Bennie Thompson, have had initial discussions with safeties George Teague and Brock Marion, along with linebacker Broderick Thomas and defensive end Raylee Johnson.

They were also pursuing defensive end Ray Seals until he signed a two-year, $3.25 million deal with Carolina earlier this week. "Ray was definitely interested in Baltimore," said Seals' agent, Drew Rosenhaus. "They tried hard. They made a great presentation. But it just didn't work out."

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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