Ravens to start Daniel Sunday Veteran cornerback 'comes ready to play,' takes Brady's spot

October 01, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens moved to fix their faulty secondary yesterday by benching struggling right cornerback Donny Brady and replacing him with Eugene Daniel, who will start on Sunday against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers.

Daniel, a 14-year veteran who was signed two weeks ago, paid immediate dividends during his Ravens debut in Sunday's 21-17 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Daniel took Brady's place in the second half, after Brady was burned badly for a first-half, 72-yard touchdown by Chargers wide receiver Tony Martin.

He responded by intercepting a Stan Humphries pass, deflecting three others and providing solid coverage. Daniel even took out two Chargers with a devastating block to aid Derrick Alexander's 34-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter.

"There's no question he had an outstanding game on Sunday," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said of Daniel. "He made his presence felt right away with a knockdown, and he could have had another interception. And that block was beautiful.

"Eugene is a veteran who has been to the wars. He's seen it all. He's always prepared himself very well, he's always been alert. He comes ready to play every week. He's something that's needed for us. He'll add stability to the secondary."

The Ravens certainly could use a calming influence. Going into their pivotal AFC Central matchup with the Steelers, the Ravens are surrendering 279.0 passing yards a game, which leaves them ranked next-to-last in the NFL in that category.

Despite their improved pass rush, the Ravens have given up an alarming number of big plays, including eight touchdown passes. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 63.5 percent of their passes this season.

In recent weeks, opponents had made a point of going after Brady, a second-year player who made the team as a free agent in 1996 and struggled throughout his first season. The Ravens considered moving Brady to safety during the off-season, a move Marchibroda did not rule out in the future.

"It's a temporary setback for Brady," Marchibroda said. "He'll continue to contribute on special teams, where he does a good job. We'll probably use him in nickel situations."

Daniel, 5 feet 11 and 180 pounds, started 60 games for Indianapolis under Marchibroda from 1992 to '95. He was drafted in the eighth round by the Colts in 1984, the year the team left Baltimore.

Daniel, 36, played in his 199th career game on Sunday, and will start his 185th game against Pittsburgh. He has 36 career interceptions, ranking seventh among active players.

Neither Daniel nor Brady could be reached for comment.

NOTES: Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa (ankle tendon strain), safety Kim Herring (sprained knee ligament) and defensive end Rob Burnett (back) are questionable for Sunday's game, and each is expected to miss practice today. Wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, who suffered a mild concussion and a pulled hamstring Sunday, probably will miss today's workout before resuming practice tomorrow. Center Wally Williams (Achilles' tendon) remains on schedule to return for the Miami game on Oct. 19. Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden will rejoin the Ravens today. Ogden remained in Southern California after the Chargers game to take care of personal business. "It was a personal problem, nothing of consequence," Marchibroda said. "He asked for special permission [not to accompany the team home to Baltimore]. He doesn't ask for too much." Punter Greg Montgomery is ranked next-to-last in the AFC with a gross average of 40.8 yards, although he is a more respectable sixth (37.8) in net average. Wide receiver Michael Jackson is tied for third in the AFC in receptions (26) and third in receiving yards (397). The Ravens have outscored opponents, 127-92, and have been outscored only in the first quarter, 28-13.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers

Site: Memorial Stadium

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Steelers by 1 1/2

Pub Date: 10/01/97

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