Harbaugh wants back in saddle Ravens quarterback practices, says injured elbow, finger improved

Decision to be made today

Hamstring pull makes R. Lewis questionable

September 11, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens are guardedly optimistic about the chances of quarterback Jim Harbaugh starting Sunday's game against the New York Jets, but the 12-year veteran said he is ready to play.

Harbaugh took his usual repetitions with the first-team offense yesterday during a two-hour, 20-minute practice. If either his right index finger or right elbow were bothering him, he showed little discomfort completing intermediate and long passes.

However, four starters -- middle linebacker Ray Lewis (hamstring), defensive tackle James Jones (knee), wide receiver Michael Jackson (ribs) and cornerback Rod Woodson (back) -- did not practice. It was Woodson's fifth missed practice since training camp started in mid-July.

"Everything felt good," Harbaugh said. "I think I'll be starting. Check with the coach on Sunday. Yesterday I took a little rest, and today it seemed to pay off. I have an all-round better feeling. My attitude is much better because I've been working."

Harbaugh had to leave Sunday's 20-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers after hyper-extending the index finger on his right hand. The problem has been compounded by tendinitis in his right elbow,which developed 11 days ago.

Coach Ted Marchibroda said a decision on Harbaugh will be reached today.

"He worked today, now we'll wait and see how it is tomorrow," said Marchibroda, who could be delaying his decision to force the Jets to prepare for Eric Zeier and Harbaugh instead of just Harbaugh. "That is the deciding factor. You have to judge this on how much swelling you may get after the first real day of work, and then how well he can throw the football. I know he can throw better than today."

Harbaugh was much more optimistic. He considered going to an acupuncturist Wednesday, but the session didn't take place because of a scheduling conflict.

"I'm not thinking about [the injuries]. I'm just playing ball," Harbaugh said. "I'm not worried, just going to play. This ballgame means a lot to this team, a lot to me. Both teams need a victory right now."

If Harbaugh can't play, then Zeier would start. Zeier came off the bench Sunday to complete 16 of 27 passes for 240 yards, including a pass play that covered 64 yards to wide receiver Jermaine Lewis. Last year when quarterback Vinny Testaverde injured an ankle, Zeier started and won the next game, forcing Testaverde to remain on the bench for three more games. Zeier won three of four in relief of Testaverde.

In his past five games, Zeier has completed 81 of 136 passes for 1,182 yards and eight touchdowns. He has a quarterback rating of 107.5 in those games (Steve Young's 104.7 led the NFL last season) and has thrown 142 consecutive passes without an interception.

"Eric prepares himself very well," Marchibroda said. "Last year was a big year for him, and he proved he could win. Eric will be ready."

Zeier said: "My approach is always the same whether I'm the starter or coming off the bench. It will never change."

Lewis, the team's leading tackler the past two seasons, slightly pulled a hamstring Wednesday in the first half of practice. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. If he can't play, second-year player Tyrus McCloud would start in his place. McCloud, drafted in the fourth round, had nine tackles and broke a pass last season.

"I think Ray is going to be fine, I think he just has a little twist," McCloud said. "The coaches told everybody we have a lot of people nicked up, so everyone has to be prepared to step up. I think I can hold my own."

Woodson, Jackson and Jones are listed as probable. Woodson would be replaced in the lineup by No. 1 draft pick Duane Starks. James Roe worked with the first team while Jackson sat out yesterday. Larry Webster, who missed the opener because of a hamstring pull, would replace Jones.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: New York Jets

Site: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

When: Sunday, 1: 01 p.m.

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

Line: Jets by 6

Pub Date: 9/11/98

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