Once Morris gets return call, he goes to work on Chargers 1st appearance of season shows power, elusiveness of Ravens' top runner

September 29, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- The oppressive heat and humidity at Qualcomm Stadium got to him. He blew an occasional assignment. He wishes he could erase a few ill-advised cutback attempts.

But overall, for a guy who was making his first appearance of the 1997 season, Ravens running back Bam Morris made a triumphant return to the field in yesterday's 21-17 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Morris provided some familiar sights. He flashed the elusiveness that still doesn't seem to belong on a man who weighs nearly 250 pounds. He bowled over numerous tacklers and dragged a few others. And he once again showed who -- off-the-field problems or not -- remains the most threatening running back on this team.

After playing for nearly three quarters, Morris rushed 17 times for 81 yards, the highest individual output from the backfield this season. He also added 18 yards on two receptions and threw in a 23-yard kickoff return to account for 122 all-purpose yards.

Until the heat started to wear him down -- the on-field temperature at kickoff was 105 degrees -- the hardest thing about yesterday for Morris was waiting for the call to join the offense.

"I was anxious, like a college freshman or a rookie just trying to get in there," Morris said. "I kept telling the coaches, 'Hey, I'm ready.'

"Overall, I felt good and I thought I did good. I guessed a little bit on a couple of runs. I tried to bounce outside when I should have just kept going north and south. At least I kept getting positive yards. And I really didn't take a good lick today. But I got a chance to rough up my pads and rough somebody else up, too."

Morris victimized several Chargers. Upon his entry into the game, he pounded the ball up the middle twice for 6 yards, then caught a pass from quarterback Vinny Testaverde in the right flat, rumbled upfield and flattened San Diego cornerback Terrance Shaw for an 11-yard gain.

The drive stalled, thanks to a pair of false-start penalties against the Ravens. But Morris had arrived.

Morris carried four times for 19 yards on the Ravens' next possession, helping them get in position for a 35-yard Matt Stover field goal that pulled the Ravens within 14-6 at the half.

"Bam did a lot of good things for us. He ran the ball well, made some big plays, got a lot of things going," Testaverde said. "He was better than I was out there, anyway. It was good to have him in there. You know he's going to get good yardage and run some people over. I'm not taking anything away from E. B. [Earnest Byner], but Bam brings more to the table as a runner."

Morris brought plenty to the Chargers in the third quarter, when the Ravens scored 10 points on their first two possessions to take a 17-14 lead.

Morris opened the initial drive with a 9-yard burst up the middle, then followed by bouncing off left tackle for 8 more. That drive ended with a Stover field goal from 28 yards out.

He saved his most memorable sequence for the next drive, which began on the Ravens' 23 with 9: 39 left in the third quarter. First, Morris sidestepped strong safety Rodney Harrison with a slick move at the line of scrimmage, before dragging free safety Michael Dumas into the secondary during a 17-yard gain. Morris then sprinted around the left side, where he planted his helmet in Harrison's chest to accentuate a 9-yard run, moving the ball to midfield.

Morris later caught a 7-yard pass to help the march that ended with Jermaine Lewis' 37-yard scoring pass, which gave the Ravens a 17-14 advantage with six minutes left in the quarter.

The heat started wearing on Morris after that. He was replaced by Byner later in the fourth quarter.

"It's still not as hot as it is in Texas. I was running there in sweats and long sleeves when I was working out to stay in shape. But there's a difference between running gassers and playing a game of football in pads."

When asked if his effort was enough to warrant a start in next week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers -- his old team -- Morris took a diplomatic route.

"It doesn't matter. If I start, I start. If I don't, that's fine, too," he said. "This is my first game back, and we had to go and lose. I just want to play next week. I just want to beat Pittsburgh."

Pub Date: 9/29/97

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