Daniel, new man but old pro, finds comfort zone Two pickoffs of Stewart help produce early TDs, but he's not satisfied

October 06, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Ravens cornerback Eugene Daniel played in his 200th career game yesterday, although the 14-year veteran said he still felt like a newcomer.

For a guy who did not prepare for the 1997 season with a training camp and has spent fewer than three weeks in a Ravens uniform, Daniel looks mighty comfortable.

Witness his production in yesterday's 42-34 loss to the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers. By the time the Steelers had stumbled through their first three possessions with three turnovers, Daniel had intercepted quarterback Kordell Stewart twice.

The Ravens turned each of those turnovers into touchdowns, taking a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Daniel, who returned his second pickoff 43 yards, also deflected two passes and added four tackles. Considering that he replaced Donny Brady during the second half of last week's 21-17 loss in San Diego and produced another interception starting in place of Brady yesterday, one could say the Ravens are getting an immediate return on their investment.

"Eugene is playing well under some tough circumstances," said Ravens safety Stevon Moore. "He just got here, now he's starting, and he really doesn't understand our defense yet. After each play, he's saying, 'Talk to me, talk to me. Let me know what's happening.' He's a true veteran who is going to help us win ballgames."

"He played an outstanding ballgame in the first half," added Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda. "He's the guy who helped us tremendously to get the lead we had."

"I just feel God has blessed me, to have played in 200 games and to still be able to get into a game and make some plays," Daniel said. "It's very important for me to make some things happen, since I missed training camp and am still catching up."

Daniel was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1984, the year the team left Baltimore. He played for 13 seasons in Indianapolis before becoming a free agent last February. He retained that status until the Ravens called him last month to patch up their leaky secondary.

Daniel wasted no time finding holes in Pittsburgh's game plan. On the Steelers' first series, he stepped in front of Courtney Hawkins at the Ravens' 28, returned the interception 5 yards and sparked his team on a 67-yard touchdown drive that gave it a 7-0 lead.

Then the Ravens took a 14-0 lead, thanks largely to an interception by Moore that he returned 38 yards to the Steelers' 5.

Daniel nearly topped that on Pittsburgh's next possession. On a third-and-11 play at the Ravens' 28, Daniel cut in front of Yancey Thigpen on the left sideline, picked off a Stewart pass and raced 43 yards before Will Blackwell caught him from behind.

The Ravens marched 42 yards with ease, scoring on a Vinny Testaverde-to-Brian Kinchen touchdown pass to take a 21-0 lead 15 seconds into the second quarter.

"But we have to finish the way we start, and we didn't finish that way at all," a subdued Daniel said afterward.

Daniel blamed himself, in part, because he missed a tackle on Stewart, who bootlegged around left end for a 74-yard run that blunted the Ravens' late comeback attempt.

"That's definitely a tackle that should be made. They definitely can't have a touchdown on that play," Daniel said. "It was important for anyone to make that play, but for me, with no training camp and all, to play great in the beginning and not at the end, that hurts. I have to make that play."

Said Moore: "Eugene didn't point the finger at anyone but himself after that play. He's a true professional. I like playing with him."

Pub Date: 10/06/97

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