Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda says his decision to start second-year receiver James Roe over Derrick Alexander tomorrow against Seattle does not contain a message regarding the team's long-range intentions for Alexander, who could become an unrestricted free agent in February.
Alexander, who leads the Ravens with seven touchdowns and is third in receptions (52) and second in receiving yards (701), was benched for the entire game in last week's 29-27 loss in Jacksonville.
Roe played well in his place, catching four passes for 80 yards against the Jaguars.
Last week marked the second time the team had disciplined Alexander this season.
He was benched briefly in last month's 10-10 tie against Philadelphia after being late for two team meetings the week preceding the game. Marchibroda then benched the four-year veteran -- a Pro Bowl alternate last year who had a career-high 1,099 yards and nine touchdowns in 1996 -- last week, following a flurry of dropped passes in practice and in recent games.
"Derrick is a fine receiver, and he's a good person. I like him, and we want him here [in the future]," Marchibroda said. "I want to get another look at James Roe. I know what Derrick can do. I like the kid [Alexander], and I like his ability. There isn't a message there at all."
Alexander wasn't so sure.
"They are definitely saying something by pulling me up like this. I feel like I've been getting the job done. I don't see how I could have been messing up that badly. I'm the leading receiver on the team," Alexander said.
"For some reason, I guess [Marchibroda] feels like I can't get the job done anymore," he added. "For some reason, he's pinpointing me. I felt like I was being watched at all times, like any minor mistake I made was getting blown out of proportion."
Marchibroda said he intends to get Alexander into the action against the Seahawks.
The last time Alexander was activated for a game but did not play was the regular-season opener in his rookie 1994 season in Cleveland.
Michael Jackson, Alexander's teammate and close friend, said he was surprised that Alexander never entered the game in Jacksonville.
"I was very surprised, but I also know this was a business decision," Jackson said. "James was playing well, and I could understand why they left him in there. I'm also aware that Derrick has some big-play capability. I know [the full-game benching] bothered him.
"I can't say that I couldn't see it coming," Jackson said. "I just know, as a player, you're going to make mistakes. And when you're losing, everything is magnified much more. That's what happened here. If you look at this as the business that it is, you can rationalize this move."
Alexander, a 1994 first-round pick and the 29th overall selection out of Michigan by the Browns, is nearing the end of a four-year, $2.85 million contract. He will earn $661,300 this year.
This time a year ago, Alexander was capping easily the finest season of his career. A year after he sat for most of the 1995 season in Cleveland, Alexander recorded a career-high 62 receptions and tied for fifth in the AFC with nine touchdowns.
He was on a pace to accumulate similar numbers this year, until a month ago, when he was late for the team meetings. Then, because of injuries to Jermaine Lewis, the Ravens inserted Alexander as a slot receiver against Pittsburgh on Nov. 9. Alexander was ineffective, and his comments criticizing the position change reportedly did not sit well with Marchibroda.
Alexander was benched briefly against the Eagles the following week.
"Being late for the meetings was one thing, and I got fined and didn't start [the Eagles game]. I thought that situation was over, and it shouldn't have anything to do with what's going on right now," Alexander said. "I'll have to find out one way or another what they plan on doing with me. I don't feel like I deserve to be sitting on the bench."
When asked about Alexander's future with the Ravens, team owner Art Modell downplayed the controversy.
"That's for the coaches to talk about. I'm not going to get into specifics about individuals," Modell said. "Suffice it to say that James Roe played well last week. James Roe is a good football player.
"We'll see what happens over the next three weeks and make an appropriate evaluation. We're not throwing anyone aside. That would be very premature."
Pub Date: 12/06/97