Turner: rested, ready Ravens: Veteran receiver Floyd Turner rejoins coach Ted Marchibroda and quarterback Jim Harbaugh after a year away from football, and he can't wait to get started again.

August 23, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Although he did not plan it this way, walking away from football for a year was the best thing that could have happened to Floyd Turner.

The time off allowed the Ravens' wide receiver to focus on numerous business interests, like running a construction company back home in Houston and dabbling in real estate and the stock market. It also allowed him to rest his weary bones after eight years of bruises and muscle strains.

Ultimately, the downtime gave Turner, 32, a chance to realize how much he missed the NFL life.

"Mentally, it's a total transition," Turner said. "You're not in meetings, you're not in the locker room, you're not on the field, you're not playing football. You have to focus on other things.

"I've never been in a situation of this nature, but being out was a major key for me. It gave me a chance to rest and rehabilitate all of the muscles I've pulled or strained. Unknowingly, it helped me."

Turner, who heads into tomorrow night's preseason game against Philadelphia as the Ravens' No. 3 receiver, is back to help the team that gave him his last opportunity in 1996 -- a season Turner would rather forget.

That year, Turner suffered a knee injury early in training camp that bothered him for months and caused him to miss four games. He finished with 38 receptions for 461 yards and two touchdowns, but battling constant injury and doing it on a 4-12, last-place team soured him.

Turner decided to take his chances by taking a vacation, after a September 1997 tryout with the Tennessee Oilers ended when he pulled a quadriceps muscle while being timed in the 40-yard dash.

These days, Turner, who signed a one-year, $325,000 contract, looks around the Ravens' locker room and sees reasons for optimism. Starting with quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who teamed up with Turner to do some pretty good work in Indianapolis three years ago.

During the Colts' 1995 season, Turner's second with them, Harbaugh led them within a victory of the Super Bowl. Turner made huge catches in all three postseason games, including a 47-yard touchdown grab that nearly beat Pittsburgh in the AFC title game.

In a dress rehearsal for the 1998 season, the pair hooked up four times for 54 yards in the 33-0 preseason victory over the Jets on Aug. 15.

"There's a comfort level I have with Floyd," Harbaugh said. "Floyd is a professional. He prepares himself for practice the right way, runs meticulous routes on the field, and you can count on him to make big plays.

"You can't just come out and rely on your ability in this league. If you want to learn technique, learn how to get open, watch him."

Turner said: "I know how Jim thinks, how he reacts. As soon as I got together with him on the field, it was like I'd never left."

At 5 feet 11, 199 pounds, Turner presents an inviting target in the slot. Fans will never confuse him with Jermaine Lewis in terms of speed. Turner's forte is exploiting seams in zone defenses and using his sure hands to catch passes that produce first downs. Drafted in the sixth round by New Orleans in 1989, Turner has averaged 13.2 yards on 249 career receptions.

The four catches against the Jets were big, and not just because the last one, a 26-yarder over the middle, set up a field goal. Up to that point, the Ravens had brought Turner along slowly in camp, before playing him sparingly in the preseason opener against the Chicago Bears.

Turner never complained. He was too busy getting reacquainted with the grind of pro football, especially in coach Ted Marchibroda's hard-hitting camp.

"My body was healed, and I came to camp in great condition, but playing this game is tough," said Turner, who battled a brief groin strain in camp. "A lot of me was hurting. I had aches and pains I never had before. I remember thinking, I worked so hard to get back to this?

"The Jets game was real good for me. I realize I had to get my hTC feet wet first [against Chicago], but I really wanted to get in there and make some plays."

Marchibroda expects no surprises from the nine-year veteran.

"He's doing the things we thought he would do, and he's made some big plays on special teams as well," Marchibroda said. "Floyd is a hard-working guy, very tough. And the year off won't make a difference with him."

Next for Ravens

Who: Philadelphia Eagles

When: Tomorrow, 7: 30 p.m.

Where: Ravens stadium

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Ravens by 6

Pub Date: 8/23/98

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