Thanks to Mitchell, everything all right for team at center Starks ready at cornerback if called on to play Sunday

Ravens notebook

October 09, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

For the past two seasons, the Ravens have had a question mark at center when the season began. For the second straight year, the Ravens have passed the test.

The season is far from over, but so far, second-year center Jeff Mitchell has held his own in his first season as the starter.

Wally Williams was expected to start at center this season, but when he held out of training camp for six weeks because of a contract dispute, Mitchell impressed the coaching staff enough to move Williams to left guard.

The Ravens are a stronger offensive line because of the move, and Mitchell could be settling into the position for quite a few years. His run blocking has improved, which was his most unstable area when he came into the league two years ago as a rookie out of the pass-oriented University of Florida.

"No, I'm not kicking major butt," said Mitchell, who missed the 1997 season with a knee injury. "I think my play has been solid and I've learned a lot every game. For instance, in Jacksonville I learned not to get over-extended. Sometimes, I was just trying to do too much. There are a lot of intricacies to this game, like angles and steps. It all comes with experience."

Mitchell made his starting debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers' Joel Steed, one of the toughest nose tackles in the league. The player who gave him the toughest time, though, was New York Jets defensive tackle Jason Ferguson.

"I played well against [Ferguson] in the preseason, but he caused some problems when we had to combine-block him in the regular-season game," said Mitchell. "But overall, this has been a blast. I'm having a lot of fun. I hope it continues."

Said Williams: "Center is not the toughest position to play when you're a first-year starter, but any time you start for the first time in this league, it's difficult. Whenever he has needed me, he has asked me, but it hasn't been that much. For the most part, he has done pretty well.'

Starks ready when needed

Owner Art Modell has said that all first-round draft picks should be good enough to start, and the Ravens have University of Miami cornerback Duane Starks, the No. 10 pick overall, warming up on the sideline.

Starting right cornerback DeRon Jenkins came under fire two weeks ago when he had problems trying to stop Bengals receiver Carl Pickens. If he has problems again Sunday, the Ravens might insert Starks at cornerback.

"He [defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis] has been working me in at both sides, so we'll see how the game goes," said Starks.

"If I get called up, I'm ready, and I'm pretty comfortable with the offense."

Thus far, Starks has been limited to nickel coverage and special teams, and he has had an impact on both units.

Dalton anxious to play

Lional Dalton was activated against the Bengals for the first time last week, but didn't get into the game. The 6-foot-1, 320-pound Dalton, a rookie free agent out of Eastern Michigan, said sitting on the bench has been an adjustment.

But as a long shot to have made the team in July, Dalton isn't complaining.

"You practice and you just try to learn as much as possible so you can get better," said Dalton.

"But sometimes you see the other guys get excited and you get excited too, but then you can't play. I just hope I'm getting some plays in by the last game."

B. Jackson impresses

The Ravens added rookie linebacker Brad Jackson (University of Cincinnati) to their practice squad Tuesday and have been impressed with him in practice. The 6-foot, 230-pound Jackson worked with the Ravens' coaching staff at the Senior Bowl last year.

"This is a great opportunity for me," said Jackson. "I'm in my rookie year, but the Ravens have a lot of young players who are also still getting taught. I get to learn from some great young players like Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Tyrell Peters, Cornell Brown, Jamie Sharper. It's a tight group."

O. Brown overlooked?

Right offensive tackle Orlando Brown has always been the "other" tackle.

When he was with the Cleveland Browns, then when the team moved to Baltimore, left tackle Tony Jones got most of the publicity. Now it's left tackle Jonathan Ogden, who made the Pro Bowl in his second year.

"That really doesn't disturb me. I'm used to it," said Brown. "At least I can still go to the movies or a club and not have a lot of people run up to me for an autograph. I like to be in the background. I like my privacy."

But it's hard to hide a 6-foot-7, 350-pound body.

"Sometimes when they see how big I am, or me driving around in the Hummer, they ask me if I'm a football player, but they don't know my name. That's good," said Brown.

Rhett determined

Even after Priest Holmes was named the starting running back again last week, veteran and backup Errict Rhett was as determined as ever to regain his starting job.

During practice, Rhett broke a long run, and as he was going into the end zone, Rhett said: "Try as they might, you can't keep a thoroughbred in the barn long."

Rhett talks a lot of trash, but he uses it as a motivational tool.

"When you meet people who talk a lot like Errict, you know about 50 percent of it is bull," said running backs coach Al Lavan. "With Errict, he believes whatever he says. It keeps him going and he is very sincere about what he says. I've never met anyone like him.

"He should go in the Talkers Hall of Fame, right after Muhammad Ali."

Injury report

Wide receiver James Roe (thigh) and reserve safety Ralph Staten (ankle) are questionable for Sunday's game.

Tickets available

Tennessee returned 300 tickets, which will go on sale this morning. Tickets can be purchased by calling 410-261-RAVE.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Tennessee Oilers

Site: Ravens stadium

When: Sunday, 1: 01 p.m.

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

Tickets: Sold out

` Line: Ravens by 3 1/2

Pub Date: 10/09/98

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