Slaughter, Davis get looks from Ravens

Receivers seen as help for beleaguered roster spot

June 07, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens are strongly considering signing veteran receiver Webster Slaughter, who is expected to visit the Owings Mills training complex today as the team opens its second off-season minicamp. All 84 of the players on the roster are expected to participate.

Slaughter, 34, played in only 10 games last season with the San Diego Chargers, catching eight passes for 93 yards before being placed on injured reserve Nov. 25 for the rest of the season because of an injured finger. The Ravens also have an interest in former Dallas receiver Billy Davis, who had 39 catches for 691 yards and three touchdowns last season with the Cowboys.

If the Ravens sign either player, they would most likely earn close to the league minimum of $400,000 and have contracts loaded with incentives. Indications by the end of last week pointed to Slaughter, who visited his former team in Cleveland this past weekend in off-the-field business. Slaughter is on the downside of a 12-year playing career, and has had injuries in recent years that have caused him to miss practice and playing time.

First-year coach Brian Billick has been careful not to overly criticize his current group of receivers, which has only one bona fide threat in Jermaine Lewis, but when a team signs a player like Slaughter and recently Qadry Ismail, who hasn't caught a pass in three years, there is clearly a lack of talent.

"I'm not going to sit here and say I'm totally satisfied, but I'm not going to fabricate that we have a problem either," Billick said. "There is no guarantee that either one [Slaughter or Davis] of them will make this team and we haven't told them that. Both are capable of earning starting positions, and if they can make us a better football team, then so be it."

Slaughter has a history with both Billick and Ravens vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome. Slaughter was coached by Billick in the early 1980s, when both were at San Diego State. Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end, played with Slaughter for five years in Cleveland. From 1986 through 1994, Slaughter was one of the best receivers in the league. His best season was with the Browns in 1989, when he caught 65 passes for 1,236 yards and six touchdowns.

"He is the consummate professional," Billick said. "He is an exceptionally hard worker, he is the same guy off the field that he is on the field. He could be the go-to guy who can help this football team. He is at the back end of his career, but if he has something left, we'll find out."

"I really enjoyed coaching Web last year," said former San Diego and Ravens receiver coach Mike Sheppard, now with the Seattle Seahawks. "He still has his quickness. He is a dynamic person who has a great desire and work ethic in practice."

Davis turns 27 on July 6. The Ravens like his explosiveness, even though last year was only his first as a starter. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Davis averaged 17.7 yards a catch and had receptions of 80, 55, 44, 43 and 36 yards. He also scored three touchdowns in an offense that was in transition under first-year coach Chan Gailey.

"He has good potential and he'll be put in a different environment if he gets here," Billick said.

Billick said his goals for this minicamp are the same as the first one nearly a month ago. He wants to set a practice structure for training camp. By the end of this six-day camp, the Ravens will have worked in about 75 to 80 percent of their offense. Billick wants 90 percent in by the end of training camp.

He also has warned players that just because they're participating in this minicamp doesn't mean they'll be invited to training camp in late July. The Ravens figure to waive five to nine players by then.

"We're not going to bring in bodies just for the sake of bringing in bodies," Billick said. "Those who come to training camp will have a legitimate chance of making our roster. We've made some progress here, but we still have a ways to go before we truly become a team; knowing who is on the roster, our roles and how do we excel in that capacity. This camp will be more aggressive, more demanding."

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