Atkins new starter in changing of guard Reserve tackle is tapped to replace left guard Cavil, will be 3rd at position in '98

Ravens notebook

November 19, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens originally signed James Atkins to give them depth at the offensive tackle position. This week, they will turn to Atkins by starting the five-year veteran at left guard.

Atkins replaces second-year man Ben Cavil, who had started the past three games in place of Wally Williams, whom the Ravens have moved back to his customary spot at center in place of Jeff Mitchell.

Cavil's performance against San Diego on Sunday included two false-start penalties.

"We thought that some improvement might be needed at that position," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said.

"The coaches make the decision. I just have to go with it. I don't know what else to say," said a dejected Cavil, who joined the Ravens last year in a trade with Philadelphia and started eight games. "I'm just looking at it as another challenge. I've got to keep fighting."

Atkins, 6 feet 6 and 306 pounds, mostly has been conspicuous by his absence in 1998. He has appeared in only three games, mainly on special teams.

"I was surprised, but it's an opportunity I'd love to have," said Atkins, who was signed originally as a free-agent defensive lineman by Houston in 1993. By 1994, he had moved to Seattle, where he started 32 straight games at left tackle in 1995 and 1996. "I thank the Ravens for the chance."

Atkins represents the latest entry in the Ravens' revolving door at left guard, where the team has yet to find an equal to Jonathan Ogden, who played there as a rookie in 1996 before assuming Pro Bowl form at left tackle last year. In 1997, the Ravens signed Leo Goeas, who lasted one season. They declined to fill the void through free agency in the off-season.

Johnson has case of drops

Rookie wide receiver Patrick Johnson seemingly caught every pass thrown to him in training camp and throughout the preseason. Then came the hamstring problems that limited him during the season's first month.

Now, Johnson is fighting a stubborn case of the drops. In the first half of Sunday's 14-13 loss to the Chargers, Johnson dropped a third-down pass over the middle from quarterback Jim Harbaugh that would have been good for a first down.

Ogden screamed at Johnson as the offense came off the field. Not coincidentally, Johnson did not play the rest of the afternoon.

"It's been rough. I just have to get out of this funk," said Johnson, who also dropped a third-down pass against Jacksonville on Nov. 1 that preceded a blocked punt returned for a Jaguars touchdown. "I just have to realize I'm going to get limited playing time, and I have to catch the ball before I run with it. My goal this week is to see the ball first.

"I don't want to get pulled from a game again. I have to be better. I know I'm a whole lot better than that."

No consolation for J. Lewis

Wide receiver Jermaine Lewis took little satisfaction from learning about the NFL's latest admission of wrongdoing. The league has announced that officials who erased Lewis' 90-yard punt return for a touchdown against San Diego were incorrect, since the tripping penalty they called never happened.

"I'm mad at myself just for falling down [after punter Darren Bennett's alleged trip]," said Lewis, who saw his third punt return for a score disappear. "I knew he hadn't touched me. I don't even want to think about it. It's gone now."

Graham suits up

Running back Jay Graham was just thrilled to be suiting up for practice. Nearly a month has passed since Graham has worked out, thanks to a partial tear of the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He was upgraded to questionable for Sunday's game in Cincinnati.

Defensive end Michael McCrary, who leads the AFC with 12 1/2 sacks, missed practice with a sore knee. He is listed as questionable for Sunday.

Miscellaneous

Since achieving a team-high three-game winning streak that got them off to a 3-1 start in 1997, the Ravens are 6-15-1. The Ravens' offense has punted after three downs 34 times this season. Tight end Eric Green is happy to see Cincinnati. In 13 career games against the Bengals, Green has caught 49 passes for 622 yards and six touchdowns, his most productive numbers against any opponent. The Ravens have never won at Cinergy Field, where the Bengals are 12-5 under coach Bruce Coslet. About 2,500 tickets remain for the Ravens' final home game against Detroit on Dec. 27. Although Carl Pickens remains Cincinnati's top receiver, with 53 receptions for 702 yards and three touchdowns, fellow receiver Darnay Scott has been a bigger nightmare for the Ravens at Cinergy Field. In two victories over the Ravens there, Scott has caught 14 passes for 232 yards.

Pub Date: 11/19/98

hTC

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