Ravens' Kinchen resurfaces, responds After injury to Green, tight end hears number called often vs. Oilers

Oilers 12, Ravens 8

October 12, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Ravens tight end Brian Kinchen was beginning to feel like an invisible player.

Two years ago, Kinchen caught a career-high 55 passes. But after Eric Green arrived in 1996 and got healthy last year, Kinchen's role in the offense never stopped shrinking. Until yesterday, Kinchen had only appeared occasionally in a two-tight-end set, and had not touched the ball on offense.

That changed after Green left the game in the first half with a punctured lung. Suddenly, the 11-year veteran from LSU was back in the game plan.

Kinchen responded with a solid effort -- four catches for 55 yards. He also performed his usual tasks on special teams, playing on the return teams and snapping on field goals and extra points.

And the production came at a cost. Kinchen suffered injuries to the big toe on each foot, the last injury coming on a 9-yard reception he made with 9: 40 left in the game. Because the Ravens were down to one tight end, Kinchen stayed in the game.

"I don't feel overpaid anymore," Kinchen said. "It's fun to get to play, after sitting around for four or five weeks. It's nice to be a part of the game, but it's never fun when you lose.

"I probably wouldn't have been in the game at the end, if we had someone in reserve. It [his left toe] was killing me. This toe, that toe, this hand, that elbow. I've had more injuries this year than I've had in my whole career put together. I don't know whether I'm falling apart or I'm just getting soft."

At 33, Kinchen has suffered a list of bruises over the years, including a few to his ego. He broke into the league with Miami as a 12th-round draft pick in 1988. Over the next three seasons, he made his mark as a long snapper, then continued in that role primarily for two more seasons after signing with the Cleveland Browns.

Kinchen has remained with the organization, mainly as a snapper, occasionally as a pass-catching threat. His breakthrough year came in 1996, his ninth season. Then the Ravens signed Green early that year, and he immediately began cutting into Kinchen's playing time.

The 1998 season has been full of bad luck for Kinchen. During the first week of training camp, he tore a tendon in his left thumb. Several weeks ago, he fractured the index finger on his right hand. Those injuries have limited his snapping ability, confining him to field goals and extra points.

When Green went down against Tennessee, Kinchen suddenly became a focal point in the Ravens' offense.

"We thought we were going to go with a lot of two tight ends today, but once Eric went down, we didn't have a second tight end. Kinchen did a good job in his place," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said.

Kinchen's big moment came late in the second quarter, after Green had left the game. He slipped across the Oilers' zone defense and snared a 10-yard reception from Eric Zeier.

"I honestly didn't think I'd get one this year," Kinchen said. "I feel pretty fortunate about that."

With six minutes to go in the third quarter, Kinchen teamed up with Zeier for a 24-yard reception on a first-and-10 from the Ravens' 25. That play kick-started the Ravens on a drive that ended with a 21-yard field goal by Matt Stover that cut Tennessee's lead to 12-5 with 2: 24 left.

Early in the fourth quarter, Kinchen suffered an injury to his right big toe while blocking on Stover's 45-yard field goal. He hurt the other toe on his next catch midway in the quarter, then finished his day in great pain while making a 12-yard reception during the Ravens' final drive of the day.

Pub Date: 10/12/98

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