'Serious' team gets work break Marchibroda calls halt to two-a-day practices

Ravens notebook

August 07, 1998|By Mike Preston and Ryan Basen

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda has been so pleased with the intensity of practices that he concluded two-a-day sessions yesterday, a few days ahead of schedule.

The mood of this year's team is different from last year and much of that has to do with the addition of veterans such as cornerback Rod Woodson, halfback Errict Rhett, fullback Roosevelt Potts and quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who bring with them dominant personalities and seemingly invincible playing styles.

This team also has a sense of urgency with Marchibroda in the last season of a three-year contract and the Ravens playing in a new $220 million stadium.

"There is a seriousness about this football team," said Marchibroda. "The concentration has been there and these guys have worked very hard."

Guard Alex Bernstein said the Ravens learned a tough lesson from a year ago when they finished 6-9-1.

"This team is a little older. Everybody knows this year we can win," said Bernstein. "Last year we lost so many close games and I think we realize what it takes to win. The physical part of preparation is just as important as the mental, but now we're getting ready for the season. We'll spend more time now in the classroom in the morning before going out in the evening."

"This camp definitely has more intensity," said quarterback Eric Zeier. "We're sharper overall compared to a year ago and we've progressed. Obviously, though, you can't tell until the games begin. But now with a new offense, we'll get to see what is successful and what's not successful. We've made strides, but we're not where we want to be yet."

Henceforth, the Ravens will have general walk-through practices the morning and team officials have encouraged fans not to show up until the afternoon practices beginning at 2: 40 p.m. Fans are also not encouraged to attend today's afternoon practice and the team will not have any practices tomorrow or Sunday.

The Williams wait

Center Wally Williams said he expects to report to camp in about 10 days.

Williams, the team's designated franchise player who is set to make $3.06 million in 1998, chose to skip part of camp since he has yet to sign a long-term contract. Williams said he expects to show up at Western Maryland College one or two days after the Ravens play their second preseason game against the Jets on Aug. 15.

"That way, I can get in enough practices to be ready to play the two [preseason] games I need to be ready for the regular season," Williams said. "I never thought I would miss it [training camp], but I really do. Your body gets conditioned to the point where you know it's time for camp."

Williams is expected to be at Camden Yards tomorrow night for the preseason opener against Chicago.

Graham to start

Second-year player Jay Graham will start at running back tomorrow night, but he'll be one of the players on the first unit who might have to alternate with a backup, in this case veteran Errict Rhett.

The battle for the No. 1 running back position is one of the most interesting in training camp.

"We'll go with Jay Graham to begin with but if he gets tired, we'll bring Rhett in to work with the first team," said Marchibroda.

"I'm pumped up a little bit about this game," said Graham. "I'll get to evaluate myself and see how I came along since last season. It's good to have a change of pace and go against somebody different than your teammates all the time."

Starks shows his stuff

In early morning workouts yesterday, cornerback Duane Starks showed why the Ravens thinks so highly of the No. 1 draft choice from Miami wo held out 16 days before signing with the team Wednesday morning.

Three times Starks dived to knock down passes on short out routes to receivers. The Ravens also had him working on the kickoff team.

"I felt fine out there, I had fun," said Starks. "I'm still playing catch-up to everyone else. But even when you make plays in practice, it builds your confidence up to a higher level. Once you stay in that mentality, it carrys over into the games."

No time to be hurt

With the preseason opener a day away, this has become crunch or money time for a lot of players, particularly rookie free agents like defensive lineman Larry Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick left yesterday morning's practice with a groin injury, but quickly returned to action.

"Nah, this ain't no time to be sitting down," said Fitzpatrick, who played at Illinois State last season. "I can't afford it and neither can the team."

Burnett back in action

Starting defensive end Rob Burnett yesterday practicing for the fifth day since returning form bronchitis. Burnett says he feels strong and the sickness had little effect on his play.

"I feel good as new," he said. "I'm just happy to be back on the field. When I wasn't practicing I was upset to watch my teammates go through [practices] without me.

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