Staten makes a stand at safety Given chance to start, rookie makes jarring hits that quickly win notice


December 15, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht and Vito Stellino | Gary Lambrecht and Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Although two successful starts in no way make a season, rookie safety Ralph Staten has given the Ravens an intriguing glimpse into the future.

After stepping in to replace injured veteran Stevon Moore at strong safety a week ago, there is no denying that Staten is quickly establishing a presence in the secondary.

First, there were his two interceptions that stood out in last week's 31-24 victory over Seattle. Yesterday, Staten made his presence known even more with some impressive hits.

Like his takedown of Eddie George late in the first half of yesterday's 21-19 victory. On a first-and-17 from the Tennessee 9, George burst upfield for a 10-yard gain, which ended abruptly when the 205-pound Staten dropped the 238-pound running back in a heap.

George sat on the field for several minutes before leaving for a series.

"He [George] kind of stood up and gave me a big target, and I just brought all of my weight with me. It was a nice collision," said Staten, a seventh-round draft pick out of Alabama who converted from linebacker to safety. "He didn't say too much, but I heard him moaning some."

Staten, who finished with six tackles and three pass deflections, added more nice touches. He drilled receiver Chris Sanders out of bounds on a fourth-quarter incompletion, then broke up a McNair pass intended for tight end Frank Wycheck on the goal line, two plays before the Oilers pulled within 21-19.

"I believe, to be a good coverage guy, you have to intimidate receivers, so they look for you instead of the ball," Staten said.

Secondary fills void

While the Ravens struggled up front with an injury-riddled line, their young secondary filled the void impressively. Second-year cornerback DeRon Jenkins had seven tackles. Rookie free safety Kim Herring chipped in with seven tackles and a pass deflection. Veteran cornerback Antonio Langham grabbed his third interception of the season to go with seven tackles and three pass deflections.

Even rookie cornerback John Williams, playing in only his third game, stepped up to put the finishing touch on the Oilers.

On the game's final play, a fourth-and-three from the Ravens' 39 with 16 seconds left, Williams broke up a pass intended for Wycheck to preserve the win.

More on Jim Kelly

Ted Marchibroda did not rule out the possibility that former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly could play for the Ravens.

"Oh, I don't know," Marchibroda said when asked if there's any chance of Kelly joining the club.

There was a report in Buffalo last week that the Ravens have talked to the quarterback, but Kelly, in an NBC interview Saturday, wouldn't identify the teams interested in him and said there's less than a 50-50 chance he'd play in 1998.

If Kelly decides to come out of retirement, a major reason would be to raise money for research on the incurable illness from which his son, Hunter, suffers -- leukodystrophy, a degenerative genetic disorder that affects the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Hunter has had treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Marchibroda said any interest in a veteran player would not indicate a lack of confidence in Eric Zeier, who has started and won the past two games after Vinny Testaverde went 8-20-1 as the Ravens' starter.

"Zeier makes us a better team the way he's played the last two weeks. He really has," Marchibroda said. "It keeps my options open. Let's say Vinny's the starter next year and Vinny's having a bad day. It allows me to put Eric in because he's quicker and faster, knowing what Eric can do."

Singleton dislocates hip

Besides the injuries reported on their defensive line, the Ravens came up hurting in a number of other positions yesterday.

Running back Tony Vinson, a valuable member of the special teams before a midseason hamstring injury disrupted his

season, aggravated his left hamstring. Safety Rondell Jones aggravated the groin injury that knocked him out of action several weeks ago, opening the door for rookie Herring. Linebacker Cornell Brown also pulled a hamstring.

And, in a scary moment in the closing seconds, receiver Nate Singleton suffered a dislocated hip during the Oilers' successful onside kick.

Singleton lay on the field for nearly 10 minutes before he was taken off on a stretcher and transported to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Alexander atones

Derrick Alexander atoned for a dropped first-half touchdown pass from Zeier in the sweetest way. He teamed up with Zeier on a 15-yard score that gave the Ravens a 21-12 cushion with 9: 20 left.

Zeier originally intended to throw to slot receiver Jermaine Lewis, but he was double-covered. Zeier then hit Alexander over the middle with a tight spiral. Alexander barely got both feet down before sliding out of bounds and into a barrier -- headfirst -- along the bleachers in the open end of Memorial Stadium.

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