Thumb injury puts Kinchen on sideline Surgery on torn tendon means long snapper out for at least six weeks

Ravens notebook

July 30, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens lost a respected veteran and one of their more notable specialists yesterday, when 11-year tight end Brian Kinchen tore the extensor tendon on his right thumb during the team's morning practice.

Kinchen had surgery to repair the injury, and is expected to be out for about six weeks. He could return around the second week of the regular season.

The team's primary long snapper, he injured the thumb while catching a pass.

"He's a very dependable ballplayer," coach Ted Marchibroda said. "He does his job, and probably does it with the least amount of fanfare."

Kinchen had a career-high 55 receptions with the Ravens in 1996, then took a back seat to Eric Green last year. Kinchen caught only 11 passes for 95 yards in 1997.

The Ravens' most immediate need was for a special-teams snapper, so they signed 10-year veteran Harper Le Bel, whose career has spanned seven teams and has consisted mainly of long-snapping duties. Le Bel, 6 feet 4, 250 pounds, played for Chicago last year. He has one career reception for 9 yards.

Harbaugh relishes camp

No one enjoys the grind of training camp, yet as he settles into his job as the Ravens' leader, quarterback Jim Harbaugh seemingly relishes the thought of more torture. Bring on the heat and humidity, the two-a-day workouts, the aches and pains.

Much of Harbaugh's first week at the helm has been spent fine-tuning his understanding of Marchibroda's offense, the same offense the two of them used a few seasons ago in Indianapolis. Harbaugh also is watching how his teammates work through the oppressive conditions.

"These are critical weeks. This is where you can really make some strides," Harbaugh said. "You want guys to get better and get mentally tougher. So what if it's 100 degrees. We might have to play a game on a 100-degree day. So what if we have to practice for three hours one day. We might have to play an overtime game.

"The more you sweat now, the less you bleed later. I see the guys pushing through it, not doing a lot of complaining. I see guys stepping into leadership roles -- Orlando Brown, Jeff Blackshear, Errict Rhett, Jermaine Lewis, Eric Green. You want to see guys with a little fire in their belly, high-intensity guys. That becomes contagious."

Harbaugh, whose passing has been crisper as camp goes on, has established his presence in the huddle.

"He takes control like a quarterback should," Brown said of Harbaugh. "When guys start [complaining], he tells them to hush and get better. There's no playing around. He makes his point, and he's serious."

Herring pushes forward

Although second-year safety Kim Herring won the starting free safety job last year, he sees camp as the chance to prove he can become a permanent starter.

Herring, a second-year player from Penn State, started the last four games of the season when Rondell Jones injured a groin in December. But after the first few days of camp, Herring says he is still adjusting to the position.

"I don't go out and think that I have the starting role," Herring said. "I just have to go out there and keep getting comfortable with each practice. The way I go about things, there is always something else that I can learn.

"We have the opportunity to learn from guys like Rod Woodson and Stevon Moore. Together that's 20 years of experience, and it's nice to have them on the field and watch them and learn the way they play."

On taking third

Third-year player James Roe knows there will be a spirited battle over the third receiver position. Michael Jackson and Jermaine Lewis are the starters while Roe, Patrick Johnson and Floyd Turner are all competing for the important slot position.

Lewis caught 42 passes in that role last season.

Given that Roe was a sixth-round draft pick who has only seven career receptions, and given that the Ravens signed Turner to push for the job, Roe is seen as the dark-horse contender for the position.

"My goal each year is to improve upon the last year," he said. "I want to increase my receptions, double what I had last year if I can. I've been working hard and competing with these guys every day. I can't worry about what they do. I just do whatever I can do out on the field.

"[Turner and Johnson] make me work harder. We have a lot of good receivers here so it's going to be a competitive camp. It's just warming up now, it's going to get a lot hotter in the next couple of weeks.

"It's a long season. You never know what may happen. Someone could go down and the team would need me to step in."

Around camp

The Ravens filled an urgent need at cornerback yesterday by signing veteran Tyrone Hughes, a five-year veteran who spent last season with the Bears and has made his mark primarily as a kick returner. Hughes, 5-9, 175, set three NFL kick-return records with New Orleans in 1996. With Donny Brady and Alfred Jackson injured, and rookie Duane Starks still holding out, the Ravens were down to four cornerbacks. They are trying to limit the repetitions taken by the veteran Woodson.

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