J. Lewis expected to sit out Slot receiver-return man hasn't practiced this week


Yarborough would fill in

September 06, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said it is unlikely that starting slot receiver and second-year player Jermaine Lewis will play against the Cincinnati Bengals tomorrow at Memorial Stadium.

Lewis, from the University of Maryland, hurt his knee returning a kickoff in the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He has not practiced this week.

"It's going to be a day-to-day situation, but I wouldn't put a lot of money on it at this point," Marchibroda said.

Lewis had four receptions for 73 yards last week, including touchdown receptions of 17 and 42 yards. He also set up a third-quarter touchdown by returning the opening kickoff of the second half 42 yards.

If Lewis doesn't play, third-year receiver Ryan Yarborough will start in his place. Yarborough is a bigger target (6 feet 2, compared with 5-7), but doesn't possess Lewis' game-breaking potential.

"I haven't received the official word, but I'm taking all the reps with the first team," Yarborough said. "I definitely like being in the middle of all the action.

"I haven't played the slot since I was in college, but it definitely gives you more freedom than being on the outside. It's a little tougher to play than on the outside because of messing around with those linebackers and the safeties looking for you."

Crimson Tide reunion

Cornerback Antonio Langham plans to look up Cincinnati defensive end John Copeland and safety Sam Shade tonight when the Bengals arrive in Baltimore. All three were members of Alabama's 1992 national championship team, which beat Miami, in the Sugar Bowl.

"I'm going to give them a call and try to visit with them for a few minutes," Langham said. "That was a great team. I wouldn't trade that team for any other in college football."

Esiason's helping hand

Former Maryland quarterback Boomer Esiason is a backup to Jeff Blake with the Bengals, having signed with Cincinnati on April 5 after playing last season with the Arizona Cardinals.

A four-time Pro Bowl player who led the Bengals to a berth in Super Bowl XXIII, Esiason has earned praise in Cincinnati for his veteran leadership.

"He helps me a lot on the field as well as off," Blake said. "He takes pressure off me. On the field, he lets me know what is going on. I can go talk to him, and if there is something I don't like, he'll go and tell the coaches."

Ken Anderson, the former Bengals quarterback who is now the team's offensive coordinator, said, "His experience and leadership are going to be very beneficial to our team. He's won before, and if something should happen to Jeff Blake, we know we've got a guy who can carry the load for us."

Tough day in a tough season

Langham has battled Bengals Pro Bowl receiver Carl Pickens for the past three seasons. Pickens usually has won the battles, although in last year's first, midseason encounter with the Bengals, Langham ended a season-long slump with an outstanding first half in which he broke up two passes intended for Pickens.

But, true to form for the 4-12 Ravens of 1996, Langham pulled a hamstring and sat out the second half, where he watched Cincinnati make up an 18-point deficit to take a 24-21 victory.

"We face guys every week who get paid millions of dollars to get open and make big catches," Langham said. "That was a tough day in a tough season for me. I was finally doing a good job, and then here comes the hamstring. I could do without that this week."

Milestone man

Fourteen-year veteran Earnest Byner could make more history tomorrow. Byner, who passed the 8,000-yard career rushing mark last week, needs just 64 more yards to enter the NFL's all-time top 20 list and surpass Freeman McNeil (8,074).

Byner, who had three receptions last week, also needs just six more to reach 500 catches for his career. Byner's 494 receptions rank 20th among active players.

Pub Date: 9/06/97

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