Ravens entrust Staten to deploy safety net again Second-year defender will start for Moore vs. Jets on Saturday

August 13, 1998|By Eduardo A. Encina | Eduardo A. Encina,SUN STAFF

The spotlight was cast on Ravens safety Ralph Staten last year. This year it seems like deja vu all over again.

Staten, the Ravens' seventh-round draft selection in 1997 out of Alabama, began last season on the bench, but he was the starting strong safety in the final three games, replacing an injured Stevon Moore.

Staten began this season as a reserve, practicing with the second team at training camp. Then on Tuesday, Moore suffered a dislocated shoulder on the last play of practice, thrusting Staten into the spotlight again.

Staten, 23, is scheduled to start the final three preseason games, including Saturday's game against the Jets at the Meadowlands. Staten said he won't try to replace Moore, a 10-year veteran, but just play hard and try to fit in with the defense.

"I am going to approach it the same way that I approached it last year when I started," Staten said. "I'm going to go out and go hard. I want to go in and fit in to the right spots. I want to continue to do what I think I did last year, which is show everybody in the organization that they have a good player on their hands."

Staten had a tough time adapting to the pros last season, with the added stress of learning a new position. Staten had played linebacker since his high school days in Wilmer, Ala., and had great success at Alabama, where he earned second team All-SEC honors as a senior. At 205 pounds, he was undersized for a NFL linebacker and was forced to the secondary, where he initially struggled to escape the linebacker mentality.

"I had to start from scratch," Staten said. "I had trouble for a while because I always wanted to play the run instead of dropping back for the pass. It was like I was getting fussed at by coaches every day at practice."

This year, camp is a different story. The yelling has gone down and coaches say experience has helped Staten develop into a quality safety. Defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said he has no reservations about playing Staten Saturday.

"He has done a good job in camp," Lewis said. "He has shown a lot more maturity. He is better at distinguishing his assignments and communicating with the other guys on the field. He's done a lot better job."

Staten said that being a linebacker for many years did help him to read plays.

"I am glad that I've been able to play there [at linebacker]," Staten said. "It has helped me because I'm able to read the linemen, the tight ends, so that it helps you react quickly to what's going on."

One thing, however, remains from Staten's linebacker mentality: He likes to hit.

"I really just want to go out there and hit guys, really just punish them," Staten said. "I guess I get that from being a linebacker for so long."

"One thing that Ralph brings to the team is aggressiveness," agreed free safety Kim Herring, who started the last three games of the season with Staten. "Because he used to be a linebacker, he's not afraid to get in there and close the holes and hit."

Last year, it took awhile for Staten to get into a game at safety. He was way down on the depth chart most of the season, only playing on special teams until late November.

"I think playing on special teams helped me a lot," Staten said. "It was a way to show to coaches that I deserved a shot somewhere else."

When Moore went down with two fractured knees, it opened the door for Staten, who started the last three games. In his first start against Seattle, he made two interceptions and finished the season with 30 tackles, including 10 in the season finale against Cincinnati. He thought he had played well enough to get a shot at starting, but when camp came he found himself the odd man out.

"I just have to prove myself all over again," Staten said. "I came in and had to start all over again. It was like I was on the bottom of the totem pole. I thought I had played well enough, but I guess there are some who I still need to prove myself to."

Lewis said last year's final three games helped Staten grow into his role as a safety.

"It gave him ideas of what to do in actual game situations and it did a great deal for his confidence," Lewis said.

Now Staten gets another chance.

"I want to go out and play well," Staten said. "I want to prove to my coaches that I can play and that I've got my head on my shoulders. But also I want to go out there and have fun. It all comes down to the fact that I need to make plays to draw positive attention to myself."

"We'll really see what Ralph has this week," said coach Ted Marchibroda. "This will really be a true evaluation of what he can do."

Pub Date: 8/13/98

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