Evans joins Ravens, comes out of hiding

Fullback overlooked in Vikings' offense

February 17, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Charles Evans played halfback and safety at a college few people have heard of, then carved out an NFL career in a role that often went unnoticed in Minnesota, especially among last season's star-studded cast of offensive weapons.

Seven years of steady effort ultimately brought Evans to Baltimore, where he became the Ravens' new fullback yesterday by signing a three-year, $3 million contract.

The addition of Evans, 6 feet 1, 243 pounds, marks the first piece in the puzzle that eventually will become the Ravens' new offense. It also kept Evans together with coach Brian Billick, who worked with Evans throughout his years with the Vikings before taking his first head coaching job in Baltimore.

Evans, who collected an $800,000 signing bonus, said Billick's offensive mind was a major factor in his decision to change teams for the first time since the Vikings drafted him in the 11th round in 1992 out of Clark Atlanta University, a Division II school.

The chance to become a more active contributor to the offense also influenced Evans, 31, to come east. In Minnesota, Evans was an effective blocker for the likes of running backs Robert Smith and Leroy Hoard and quarterback Randall Cunningham.

He also barely touched the ball. During his career, which began with a rookie season on the Minnesota practice squad, Evans has rushed 118 times for 364 yards and four touchdowns, and has caught 78 passes for 531 yards and one touchdown.

Evans also has never fumbled, and has been the picture of durability. He has played in 69 consecutive games, dating to the beginning of the 1995 season.

"It helps that Brian is here and I know his system. I like to hit the ground running. This is going to be to my advantage," Evans said. "It's kind of a win-win situation.

"I know my first role is to block. I also think I'm a talented running back, and Brian is going to give me more of a chance to do that. We had so many stars in Minnesota. [The Ravens] have a heck of a good defense. Brian is an offensive mind. If we can get a little more offense going, we can be a contender."

Last year, the 6-10 Ravens ranked 26th in the NFL in total offense, averaged just 16.8 points a game, and were last in the league in first downs and red-zone offense.

A major problem in their attack was the ineffective blocking of fullback Roosevelt Potts, one of the Ravens' bigger free-agent busts of 1998.

Billick feels that problem is behind him.

"There are a number of things Chuck brings, [starting with] the fact that he's a multidimensional player," Billick said of Evans. "He's an outstanding blocker, a solid receiver out of the backfield, a good route runner and an excellent runner.

"He didn't get enough opportunities to carry the ball [in Minnesota], but that's going to change here. He brings immediate knowledge of the system, and he was one of the best [blockers] in the league in Minnesota. He's a great value for us."

Evans left Clark Atlanta as a halfback, having rushed for 1,365 yards and 22 touchdowns over his final two seasons. He also played some safety there, collecting two interceptions.

After drafting him, the Vikings told Evans he would need to hone his blocking skills and convert to fullback. A year later, they drafted Smith in the first round out of Ohio State, ensuring Evans' future role as a lead blocker.

"I had to learn how to block. It was a drastic move," Evans said. "When I got drafted, the only thing I had going for me was that I work hard. Nowadays, I think I'm just as good as anybody. Hard work pays off."

NOTES: The Ravens also signed free-agent offensive lineman Chris Harrison, and re-signed wide receiver Mike Bowman, fullback Rob Robertson, wide receiver Phil Savoy and fullback Ben Snell. Harrison, an undrafted free agent in Detroit, played for the Lions in 1996 and 1997, then spent last year on Minnesota's practice roster. Robertson spent last year on the Ravens' injured reserve list, and Bowman and Savoy spent part of 1998 on the Ravens' practice squad. Snell was waived by the Ravens in training camp last year.

Pub Date: 2/17/99

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