Siragusa to undergo MRI exam on ankle Strained tendon could put tackle out for two weeks

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

receivers enjoy field day

September 22, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Vito Stellino contributed to this article.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Ravens will be holding their breath today, awaiting word on the status of defensive tackle Tony Siragusa.

Siragusa, who suffered a strained left ankle tendon while he was returning a recovered fumble by Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair early in the first quarter, left the Liberty Bowl on crutches, his foot heavily wrapped.

Preliminary X-rays were negative, although an magnetic resonance imaging exam has been scheduled for today.

"I don't even know who hit me," Siragusa said. "It sounds like Larry Webster did a great job [filling in]. Larry and I talked about some adjustments and things at halftime, but I didn't even see most of the game. I just want to get back on the field."

Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said it appears Siragusa's injury could keep him sidelined for two games, although he added, "It could turn out to be something more nagging."

Several players privately were grumbling about the tackle that dropped Siragusa. After he scooped up the fumble at the Oilers' 29 -- caused by Rob Burnett's sack of McNair -- Siragusa advanced it 7 yards, before Tennessee left tackle Brad Hopkins chopped him down at the 22.

Said Hopkins: "I wasn't trying to cut [Siragusa]. Put it this way: This guy is striding for a touchdown, you know. What do you do? I'm trying to make a tackle. I'm not trying to save face. It's part of football. They would do the same thing to our guys. It was no personal thing involved."

Targets aplenty

Ravens wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, who had an explosive return after missing most of two games with a sprained knee, likened yesterday's passing exhibition by quarterback Vinny Testaverde to a turkey shoot.

By halftime, Lewis and fellow receivers Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander had combined for 211 receiving yards and two touchdowns -- both by Alexander.

"Vinny was just finding targets and hitting everybody. He was dropping balls in where no one could catch them but me," Lewis said. "They [Oilers' secondary] didn't know what to do."

In the second half, Lewis nearly turned the proceedings into a one-man show with four catches for 52 yards, including a 16-yarder for a touchdown. He had another score called back because of a holding penalty.

And he added a nifty 45-yard punt return, in which he faked out four Oilers while weaving his way up the middle of the field. That play started the drive that ended with Lewis' touchdown, which gave the Ravens a commanding 30-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.

"I have a lot more confidence and a lot more knowledge when it comes to returning kicks, and it's starting to show out there on the field," Lewis said.

Answering a late call

One of the unsung heroes of yesterday's rout was Ravens center Quentin Neujahr, who found out five minutes before game time that he would start.

Neujahr, who suffered a badly sprained right ankle two weeks ago against the Cincinnati Bengals -- Neujahr called it "the Cadillac of ankle sprains" -- did not dress for last week's 24-23 win over the New York Giants. And he practiced little last week.

"I'm going to be hobbling again tomorrow, but winning always heals pain," said Neujahr, who did a fine job both run-blocking and picking up the Oilers' numerous blitzes. "I didn't feel rusty, just slow. Obviously, I was a half-step slow on a few plays where guys got around the corner on me."

Secondary steps up

The Ravens' maligned secondary took a big step forward. It allowed only 195 total passing yards, including only 62 in the second half, when the Oilers trashed their running game after falling way behind.

"We've been catching a lot of heat. Today was a steppingstone for us," cornerback Antonio Langham said. "Don't count us out, because we're coming along real fast."

Stover stellar again

Kicker Matt Stover continued his excellent season by hitting five of six field-goal attempts. He missed his first attempt of 1997 on a 46-yarder in the first quarter that sailed wide left at the last second.

Stover, who scored 18 points yesterday, has made 11 of 12 attempts this year. And he was equally dangerous on the kickoff coverage team.

After booting a 34-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to give the Ravens a 33-10 lead, Stover then prevented a disastrous runback by tackling Tennessee's Derrick Mason on the sideline after a 54-yard gain.

Stover sounded especially pleased with that part of his afternoon, as he held up his skinned elbow and said, "I've even got a boo-boo to show for it."

Lapses in coverage

The Ravens' kickoff coverage team left much to be desired, allowing 158 yards on five returns.

Bennie Thompson, the leader of that group, made his disapproval clear.

"We've got some guys who are doing some things that I don't appreciate," Thompson said. "Me and [special teams coach] Scott O'Brien are going to take care of that this week, and I promise you will see a better effort next week."

Turning point

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