Attitude adjustment could make McCloud second-year terror Making foes miserable on special teams will be his unselfish duty, he says

Ravens notebook

August 06, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this article.

Second-year linebacker Tyrus McCloud is glad his rookie season is behind him. Like many players forced to accept a part-time role after starring at the collegiate level, his first year as a pro was not enjoyable.

McCloud, 6 feet 1, 250 pounds, a fourth-round draft pick out of Louisville, came to the NFL with a reputation as a defensive anchor at middle linebacker. At Louisville, he led the Cardinals in tackles as a junior and senior.

Trouble was, McCloud was stuck on the depth chart behind a middle linebacker named Ray Lewis.

"It was very, very difficult last year. I came in with the mentality that I could compete for a [starting] job," McCloud said. "It was my defense at Louisville, and I knew no one was behind me [to threaten him] there. But this is Ray's defense. He was brought here for that. And I didn't want to accept the role I was in."

McCloud sulked during much of 1997 while he adjusted to his primary role on special teams. Although he finished with a respectable nine special teams tackles, fourth on the team, McCloud's heart wasn't in such dirty work.

Now, a rejuvenated McCloud is embracing his time on special teams.

"I have to give my effort to this role, because all of the coaches and players want to win, and I can't let them down by being selfish," he said. "I've refocused and realized, hey, my time will come. I'm going to give [special teams coach] Scotty O'Brien everything I have. I'm still hungry [for a starting job], but I have to accept my role without being content."

Sharper wants Morris

The signing of former Ravens running back Bam Morris to a one-year contract in Chicago was a hot topic among Morris' former teammates, especially with the Bears coming to town Saturday night for the preseason opener at the new stadium.

It is not known whether Morris will play, but second-year linebacker Jamie Sharper wouldn't mind getting a close look at his old teammate.

"It will be interesting to see how he plays, and it will be nice to get a chance to hit him," Sharper said. "He won't be in top shape. But with the running back situation Chicago is in right now, the Bears had to pick him up.

"Once he lowers his head, it's hard to stop him. He's like a bowling ball rolling downhill, like [Pittsburgh's] Jerome Bettis, only Bam has more fat. I'm looking forward to giving him a shot, so I can talk some junk to him and tell him to get in shape."

Woodson, Thompson out

The defensive backfield was missing two players yesterday morning, and neither absence was due to an injury.

The team excused cornerback Rod Woodson for personal reasons, and reserve safety and special teams leader Bennie Thompson had to travel home to New Orleans for the day.

Thompson had to testify in a murder trial related to the death of his wife and son in 1995.

Both are expected to rejoin the team today.

A. Jackson ailing again

Cornerback Alfred Jackson, who has missed seven days of practice with a pulled hamstring, re-aggravated the injury yesterday morning and missed the afternoon practice.

Jackson reinjured himself while covering wide receiver Patrick Johnson on a deep route. Jackson was with Johnson for about 30 yards when he pulled up.

"I'm in a position where I need to be out there for every practice," Jackson said. "So I went out there and it felt fine, but then on that route it was like I wasn't even running."

Jackson, signed in the off-season as a free agent to add experience to a young secondary, has had little chance to show it. He has missed 14 practices with the injury. He said he has been frustrated by the hamstring before last year in the CFL.

"The next time I come back, I am going to make sure it is 100 percent," Jackson said. "I don't want the team to put me on the field and allow myself to look bad and let them down. At this point, I'm going to have to play it by ear."

Jackson said he will be day to day, to make sure the hamstring is healed.

"You go out there and you think you are ready both mentally and physically and then it just happens again," he said. "It's a real setback and frustrating."

Snap, crackle, pop

Despite getting some repetitions at tight end the past couple of days, and even making a nice over-the-shoulder catch in drills, the Ravens say that Harper Le Bel's way onto the team is as a long snapper.

Le Bel was signed as a free agent on July 29 after tight end and regular long snapper Brian Kinchen went down with a season-ending thumb injury. Since then Le Bel has been putting in extra time after practice, mainly to practice cohesion between himself and the punter.

"There'll be some days when I think I'm really on and then I look back on that tape and I think, 'Jeez, I could have got that off sooner,' " Le Bel said. "This is the time to work out the bugs."

Le Bel said he is working on techniques to get the ball to the punter quicker, from .85 of a second to .75 of a second.

"If I'm giving my punter five-one hundredths of a second more time to set up and kick, then I am efficient," Le Bel said. "Just little things like that are what I am really working on now so I can give Greg [Montgomery] or Kyle [Richardson] time to set up and kick without being rushed."

"Harper is a really great long snapper," coach Ted Marchibroda said. "We're very pleased with him and we think he does a great job with the long ball."

Pub Date: 8/06/98

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