Four days before their pivotal AFC Central Division matchup against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens did not exactly hit the practice field crisply.
About an hour into yesterday's workout, the team looked lethargic enough that veteran running back Earnest Byner interrupted the session, called the team together and addressed the players.
Byner's agitated voice could be heard from 60 yards away. When the two-hour practice was over, offensive tackle Orlando Brown also gave the team an animated tongue-lashing. Brown )) declined to elaborate on his speech.
"Wednesdays can be a little sluggish. It's more of a learning day," Byner said. "We're just putting in our game plan, and everybody is still a little stiff [from the previous game]."
"But it was more lax than it should have been today," he said. "I just asked them what are we doing? What are we thinking about?
"Are we still feeling sorry for ourselves because we lost on Sunday? Last year, I wouldn't even have said anything. We have a lot more at stake this year."
Last year, the Ravens were 2-3 and headed downward. This year, they are 3-2 and remain optimistic about earning a berth in the playoffs.
They already have won two games on the road, two games against divisional opponents. A victory over the Steelers would leave the Ravens with a 4-2 record and a 3-1 mark in the AFC Central, and it would send them into their bye week possibly in first place.
"I don't know what some of the guys are doing off the field, but this is a big week. This is Pittsburgh week," kicker Matt Stover said. "If we don't have good practices, it reduces our chances of winning.
"We don't want to be losers. Championship teams know how to practice. Earnest wanted us to step up because he felt there was a need. He has been around for a while, and we deserved to get our butts kicked from him, to change our attitudes."
"Practice was kind of non-emotional, no enthusiasm," receiver Jermaine Lewis said.
"[Byner] corrected it in the middle of practice instead of waiting until we watched film.
"Maybe some of the rookies don't understand, but they are starting to pick up on what's happening. This is a big game."
Cornerback Donny Brady found out on Monday that he was being replaced by 14-year veteran Eugene Daniel.
After getting burned by San Diego wideout Tony Martin for a 72-yard touchdown in the second quarter and after getting benched for Daniel in the second half, Brady said he sensed a depth-chart change had occurred.
"I kind of knew [after the game]. I knew how I had played, and I knew it was going to happen," Brady said. He worked with the team's dime-package defenses yesterday.
"I'm dealing with it. I've got to deal with it. Mentally, I've got to prepare better for whenever they call my number. I've just got a different role now, and I'm going to do the best I can in that role."
Daniel performed against the Chargers pretty much as one would expect from a cornerback with 14 years of experience.
Although he missed training camp for the first time in his career and is still adjusting to the Ravens' terminology, Daniel said his lengthy experience is making the transition smooth.
"Some of the techniques and terminologies have changed over the years, but playing for 13 years is what's helping me right now," he said.
"These guys are teaching me things now. All I can do is do whatever the coaches want, do it at full speed and let them decide how I'm doing."
Going with Morris
After he carried 17 times for 81 yards in his debut in San Diego, following his four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, running back Bam Morris found out he would start against his old team this week.
Morris was released by the Steelers in the spring of 1996.
"I don't think [the Ravens coaches] thought I would come in and play the way I did, after I missed so many games," Morris said.
"I just want to go out and play and beat Pittsburgh, regardless of whether I start."
Morris' 81 yards were the best rushing total by a Ravens running back this year.
With Morris back and Byner still productive, coach Ted Marchibroda has a challenge on his hands: Find some time for rookie running back Jay Graham, who did not carry the ball against the Chargers.
"With Bam back, it's kind of tough [to find room for Graham]," Marchibroda said.
"We haven't forgotten about [Graham]. He'll play. I just don't know how much."
Pub Date: 10/02/97