Graham caught on outside looking in Back particularly frustrated by loss to Steelers because he didn't get in on any plays

Ravens notebook

September 08, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Jay Graham had nothing to smile about on Sunday.

Digesting a season-opening, stadium-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on such a momentous day was hard enough for Graham or anyone else associated with the team. Taking a loss without contributing one play to the action was especially difficult for Graham.

Errict Rhett, who replaced Graham, led all rushers with 72 yards on 16 carries. Priest Holmes, the second-year back from Texas who improved faster than possibly any other Raven this summer, contributed 23 more yards on six carries. And Graham, who until four days before the opener was considered the starter, was the game's most conspicuous spectator.

"I kept on stretching on the sideline to stay ready, but I never crossed that big white line. I just rolled my knees in the grass, like you did in Pop Warner, to make it seem like you played a little bit," Graham said.

"It hurt, because I didn't have the opportunity to contribute, especially since we lost. I didn't know what to think. I was just watching the game, hoping we would pull out a win. You're always going to be faced with certain things. I can't get down about this. I can't sit around and say why, why, why is this happening to me?"

Running backs coach Al Lavan said the Ravens had decided before the Steelers game that Holmes would be the third-down back. Then, after Rhett came out of the game with a minor injury, the Ravens decided to stick with Holmes as his backup until Rhett returned.

"Priest already was in the flow of the game, and he was running the ball well," Lavan said. "I didn't want to put Jay in and change that rhythm."

Coach Ted Marchibroda said Graham would probably see action in this week's game against the New York Jets.

Said Graham: "I don't know what the situation is. All I can do is keep going as hard as I can and let the coaches make their decision. I don't feel like I'm not a part of this team. I'm never going to stop working hard."

Siragusa sparkles

Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa had his best game as a Raven, making seven solo tackles against Pittsburgh. Could this be the start of a season like 1994, when Siragusa started all 16 games and recorded a career-high 108 (64 solo) tackles with Indianapolis?

"I felt good [on Sunday]. I felt healthy. Last year, I played on one leg a lot," said Siragusa, alluding to a knee injury that bothered him in 1997. "I never felt a hundred percent like I did in this game."

Siragusa also benefited from a role reversal. Typically, the 320-pound "Goose" draws most of the double-teams inside. Against Pittsburgh, fellow tackle James Jones drew much of that dirty work, freeing Siragusa to work in many one-on-one battles with Steelers left guard Roger Duffy. Mismatch.

"Yeah, we sort of switched jobs a little bit. J. J. picked up some double teams, and J. J. had a great game," Siragusa said. "Our whole line did great. [Defensive ends Michael] McCrary and [Rob] Burnett did a great job turning plays inside."

Siragusa also got stronger as the game went on. He did suffer severe cramping in his calf in the second half, and nearly left the contest. Several hours after the game, he needed an injection of fluids to relieve the problem.

A sharper Sharper

The Ravens have been waiting for second-year outside linebacker Jamie Sharper to establish himself firmly as a presence. Remember Sharper's benching last year? A good off-season of work apparently has paid off for the former Virginia star.

Sharper looked bigger and played smarter during the preseason, and he carried that confidence into the season opener. He finished with four tackles. He also nearly sacked quarterback Kordell Stewart in the Pittsburgh end zone to record a safety in the first half.

"Anytime you're in your second year, you know more about what's going on," said middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who is beginning his third season. "It's time for Jamie now. I've been riding him a lot. In preseason, you could see him coming, coming, coming.

"Me and Peter [Boulware] will get Jamie alone sometime and tell him we don't want to go watch film and have [defensive coordinator] Marvin [Lewis] coach you all the time. It's time to step up, and he's playing like an animal now."

Et cetera

Marchibroda said he expects defensive tackle Larry Webster (hamstring), who has not played since the preseason opener, to make his 1998 debut against the Jets this week. The Ravens became only the second team in the 1990s to lose a home opener in their new stadium. Jacksonville lost to Houston, 10-3, on Sept. 3, 1995. Atlanta (1992), St. Louis (1995) and Washington (1997) each won in their new stadium debut. Approximately 3,000 tickets remain for the Ravens' next home game on Sept. 27 (8: 20 p.m.) against Cincinnati.

Pub Date: 9/08/98

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