Harbaugh set to get starting nod QB is throwing better, will face Jags if healthy

Ravens notebook

September 18, 1998|By Mike Preston and Gary Lambrecht | Mike Preston and Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Coach Ted Marchibroda said yesterday that veteran Jim Harbaugh is likely to be the Ravens' starting quarterback Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Bothered by a hyper-extended ring finger on his right (throwing) hand and tendinitis in his right elbow, Harbaugh has played less than a half in the first two games.

Backup Eric Zeier, bothered by a sore calf muscle this week, has relieved Harbaugh in both games, most recently completing 13 of 20 passes for 173 yards Sunday in the team's 24-10 win over the New York Jets.

"If Harbaugh is healthy, we'll go with Jim," Marchibroda said. "This is the best he has thrown the football in a week or so. But if Jim isn't playing well or gets reinjured, I won't hesitate going with Eric."

Harbaugh said he was progressing nicely and that his injury was feeling better every day.

"Sure, I would have liked to have had two great starts to begin the season, but I'm going through a little personal adversity," Harbaugh said.

Zeier, who has the fifth-highest quarterback rating in the league at 104.3, was his usual diplomatic self.

"It's his decision," Zeier said of Marchibroda. "Everything I do will always be consistent with what I've always done."

Zeier has completed 29 of 47 passes for 413 yards and two touchdowns. Harbaugh is 9-for-17 for 69 yards and no touchdowns. Neither has an interception.

Marchibroda has not decided who will start at running back, but second-year player Jay Graham is the favorite this week because veteran Errict Rhett has been bothered by a thigh injury.

Woodson's test objections

Cornerback Rod Woodson did not return with the team Sunday night after the game against the Jets in East Rutherford, N.J., fueling speculation that he met with league officials in New York to object about taking two mandatory drug tests recently.

Woodson reportedly passed both, but was supposed to enter Stage 1 of the league's rehabilitation program because he initially declined to take the second test, which is an automatic failure.

"I don't have a problem, they have a problem," Woodson said. "If it was me having the problem, this would have been resolved by now."

Jackson vs. the Jaguars

Wide receiver Michael Jackson has 31 catches for 486 yards and three touchdowns against Jacksonville. Jaguars cornerback Dave Thomas has become one of Jackson's favorite victims.

"I plan on getting him ready for the rest of the season," Jackson said of Sunday's matchup. "I bring out the worst in him, maybe because I talk to him too much on the field. I don't think he likes me because of the fact that I was killing him and then telling his coaches on the field that they ought to cut him.

"Maybe I talk to him because he reminds me of myself on defense, a big, tall guy. And I don't like people who remind me of me."

Neujahr faces old friends

Quentin Neujahr's life took a dramatic turn six months ago, when he went from a restricted free agent with the Ravens to backup center in Jacksonville.

A three-year, $3.8 million contract beefed up Neujahr's bank account. Then, a back injury to starting center Michael Cheever on the second day of training camp moved Neujahr up the Jaguars' depth chart.

Neujahr, a four-year veteran who proved his worth by starting seven games for the Ravens in place of the injured Wally Williams last year, will start his third straight game Sunday against his old teammates.

Count Neujahr among those impressed with the 1998 version of the Ravens' defense, particularly the front four and middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

Neujahr can expect a lot of company from the likes of Lewis and tackles James Jones and Tony Siragusa, who is off to one of the best starts of his career.

"Goose looks like he's in great shape. He's really coming off the ball well and giving people fits," Neujahr said. "J. J. looks like he's at the top of his game.

"Marvin [Lewis, defensive coordinator] always said once he got everybody healthy and got the players he wanted, he would turn them loose. I believe he's turning them loose."

Hamstring pulls aplenty

Injuries will always be an inescapable part of football, but every so often, a team gets hit with a rash of the same ailment. Remember the knee injuries of 1996?

The latest malady for the Ravens is the pulled hamstring.

The team had to go with only four receivers against the Jets, since reserves James Roe and Patrick Johnson were out with hamstring injuries.

Even though backup safety Ralph Staten was suspended that day, a hamstring problem likely would have sidelined him.

Ray Lewis played the entire game with a bad hamstring. Rhett pulled one in the closing moments. Defensive tackle Larry Webster missed three preseason games and the regular-season opener because of one.

"We're going through a rash of them right now. Why? I don't know," said Ravens strength and conditioning coach Jerry Simmons. "You try to look at everything you're doing. We're not doing anything different from what we've done in the past. We're in good condition. We work hard on flexibility. We warm up properly. We can't put a finger on it.

"Sometimes [the cause] is a lack of strength, other times it's fatigue. I've tried to study it. But nothing shows up as something I would call a cause."

Pub Date: 9/18/98

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