After 21-game wait, opportunity knocking for QB Richardson Zeier injury could open door for third-stringer's first action Saturday

RAVENS Notebook

August 12, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

As the Ravens' second preseason game draws near, second-year quarterback Wally Richardson goes on wondering when his chance will come. It could happen on Saturday against the New York Jets, especially after backup quarterback Eric Zeier pulled out of yesterday's practice with a pulled right hip muscle.

During his rookie season in 1997, Richardson saw the entire 20-game season -- including four preseason games -- go by without taking a snap as the team's third-string passer. This year, Richardson is behind Jim Harbaugh and Zeier as the scout-team quarterback, and he already has watched the preseason opener from the sideline.

"I feel like I've pretty much done everything they've asked me to do. I hope they reward me with some playing time," Richardson said. "You can do everything in practice and watch all of the film you want, but there's nothing like live game action. That's the best teacher."

Richardson, second all-time in completions at Penn State, spent last spring playing sparingly for NFL Europe's London Monarchs.

After Zeier's afternoon ended unexpectedly early yesterday, Richardson enjoyed the most repetitions he has had since camp began. Zeier suffered the injury during individual footwork drills.

"It was a freak thing. I just felt something pull when I dropped back," Zeier said. "I tried to go some more, but they told me to shut it down. I'm going to try to go tomorrow."

"I don't know how [the Zeier injury] happened. He wasn't moving much, and we took him out of there because he wasn't throwing well, either," head coach Ted Marchibroda said.

"Wally will see some action. I can't tell you what ballgame. We plan to get him into one of these games for a quarter or a half, somewhere in that area. If Eric is hurt, it will happen in this ballgame."

Said Richardson: "I would relish the opportunity. I just want to get in there under fire like everybody else."

Corner heats up

The competition for the starting right cornerback spot intensified yesterday with both Duane Starks and DeRon Jenkins having solid practices.

Jenkins came to training camp as a starter, while Starks held out for 16 days before signing a four-year contract. Jenkins continues to practice with the first team. Starks worked yesterday as the nickel back.

After getting burned by Jermaine Lewis with a spin move along the sideline after a short reception, Jenkins recovered well. He broke up a long pass intended for Patrick Johnson and nearly intercepted a pass a few plays later. He saved his best for last, breaking well on the ball and knocking away a Harbaugh pass intended for Michael Jackson during the two-minute drill.

"I've stepped it up this year, period," Jenkins said. "Today was just another practice. Everyone out there is a professional trying to make plays. I'm no different than any one of them."

Except that Jenkins is fighting for one of the few starting positions that remain open to competition in camp.

He says he feels no extra pressure to play better since Starks' arrival in camp.

"This could be my year," Jenkins said. "I feel confident about [how I played] Saturday against Chicago. I did some good things but there are still things I can improve. It was a good start. Now I feel like I'm ready to go out and consistently make plays this year."

Punting job close call

The way Marchibroda sees it, the battle for the punting chores remains too close to call.

Greg Montgomery, the incumbent who is coming off a subpar season, didn't hurt his chances against Chicago. He averaged 47.7 yards on three punts, and he showed steady hands by fielding two errant field-goal snaps by recently acquired Harper Le Bel, who is filling in for the injured Brian Kinchen (thumb).

Kyle Richardson, the left-footed challenger, punted once for 48 yards against the Bears. He also dropped a perfect extra-point snap by Le Bel.

"I don't think anybody has jumped out in front," Marchibroda said. "Certainly, Greg had a good punt on Saturday, and so did Kyle. There's no clear-cut decision yet."

Which is fine with Richardson, a second-year free agent out of Arkansas State.

"I haven't gotten much feedback, but I'm looking at it in a positive way," he said.

"They told me the job was open, and that I would get a legitimate shot. It's wide-open. If I perform, I get the job. That's what I anticipate."

Brady working way back

Although he only performed limited work, defensive back Donny Brady returned to practice yesterday for the first time since injuring his right knee on July 24 during the first, full-squad workout.

"I felt a little rusty and nervous," said Brady, who bruised a bone below the knee. "I want to make sure I'm 100 percent before I go out there full time. The knee feels fine. I just have to work back in slowly."

The knee is healed enough so that Brady would play on Saturday if this were a meaningful game against the Jets. But he probably will not play in the second preseason game, calling his status "up in the air."

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