Receivers appear to be catching on

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Corps has fewer drops during two days of camp

July 31, 1999|By Mike Preston and Brent Jones | Mike Preston and Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

During the first two minicamps, it took only a few hours to determine that the Ravens needed another receiver opposite Jermaine Lewis. The receivers were knocking down more passes than the defensive backs.

But after two days of training camp, the receivers have been holding onto the ball as well as their jobs. They aren't reminding anyone of Jerry Rice, but the Ravens aren't rushing out trying to sign Cincinnati Bengals receiver Carl Pickens either.

Not yet, anyway.

There has been plenty of competition among the 10 receivers, with Lewis and first-year player Patrick Johnson running on the first team with the regular offense and veteran Webster Slaughter in the third spot in the three-receiver package.

Lewis, Johnson and Billy Davis are similar, with speed and explosiveness. Slaughter, Floyd Turner and rookie Brandon Stokley are possession types, though Stokley will be out four to five days after partially dislocating his shoulder in the morning practice yesterday.

"I'm pleased with the way they have retained the system," said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "We've had some mental errors, but that's to be expected. We've also had some drops, but not an inordinate number of them."

Billick said several factors could account for the improved play.

"First of all, everyone is working hard," Billick said. "They're also becoming more familiar with the system. If you're not comfortable, sometimes you don't cut as hard or are not going 100 percent because you're thinking and hesitating. There is also more competition, which pushes everyone."

Said cornerback Duane Starks: "I think they are performing a lot better than in minicamp because they have learned more about the system and their coaches. I definitely see the improvement."

Though Ravens officials say they have not been involved in any trade talks with the Bengals about Pickens, Billick and Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel, are keeping an eye on the situation, especially if the receivers falter in training camp.

The Bengals have not gotten the first-round pick they desire for Pickens, but the Ravens might be willing to part with a second-round selection.

"If the price comes within reasonable parameters, then we'll be inclined to listen," Billick said. "Carl Pickens is certainly worthy of a first-round pick, but sometimes a market deal is what the market bears."

Dual roles for J. Lewis?

Billick has yet to determine specific roles for all his players, but it will be interesting to see what he does with Lewis.

Lewis is expected to start at wide receiver, where he had 41 catches for 784 yards last season. He was also one of the league's top punt returners, averaging 12.3 yards and returning two for touchdowns as he was named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad.

But Lewis has been injury prone the past two seasons, and Billick might need to get him some rest instead of having him on double duty full time. The Ravens have several players who can return punts, including one of the all-time best in Eric Metcalf, who has 2,804 return yards on 281 punts. Metcalf, who has returned nine for touchdowns, has been fielding some with the Ravens in training camp.

"I haven't been told how that will be handled, but I prefer to do it," Lewis said. "Ever since I came into the league three years ago, that's what they were training me for. It's the coaches' call, but I feel as though I can make a big impact in that situation."

Terror's McCord vies for job

Former Western Maryland College punter Paul McCord is a long shot to replace Kyle Richardson, but he isn't going to go easily. This past spring, McCord averaged 44 yards with a 41.2 yard net while playing for the Ohio Cannon in the upstart Regional Football League.

McCord was the Green Terror's punter for four years beginning in 1991. This is his second chance to land with an NFL team. He was cut by the Dallas Cowboys in 1995.

Since then, he has served as special teams and recruiting coordinator at Western Maryland before feeling the urge to try out again last spring.

"Practicing here on this field is great because I'm relaxed and comfortable," he said. "I'm two miles from my home, so this is not like training camp. But I'm not happy just to be here. I'm here to compete and win the job."

Siragusa ready for delivery

Tony Siragusa, who reported to camp in excellent shape after losing about 30 pounds during the past two months, could be leaving Westminster on extremely short notice. His wife, Kathy, is expecting their second child. She is back home in Kenilworth, N.J.

The Ravens have arranged air transportation to get Siragusa home as quickly as possible.

"It [Kathy's labor] could happen now. It could happen a month from now," Siragusa said. "I've got a beeper. The trainers have beepers. When it goes off, I've got to go, and I'll be running faster than you've ever seen me run."

Ravens practice on line

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