Dalton figures to get his hits

Older defensive line, loss of starter to open spots for other Ravens

August 02, 1999|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Years from now, when Ravens defensive tackle Lional Dalton is spinning stories about his good, old days in the NFL, it is a safe bet that near the top will be the one about hitting Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders so hard that he caused a fumble at the Lions' 1-yard line, helping lead the Ravens to a 19-10 victory.

To make the story sweeter for Dalton, it apparently was the last time Sanders -- who announced his retirement last week -- fumbled. The hit came on the first play of Dalton's second game as a rookie after being inactive for the first 14 games of the 1998 season.

"I'm from Detroit, so I was excited," Dalton said. "I got like 30 tickets [the game was in Baltimore]. I remember my uncle kept saying all week: `Barry is going to juke you. Barry is going to tear you up when you get in there.' I'm thinking, that is Barry, so he might juke me. But I kept saying to myself I'm going to hit him.

"So when it actually happened, I just ran to where my family was at and pointed at them. I still watch that film to this day and don't believe I did it."

It will be hard to top that feat, but Dalton said that is not his goal. He knows that, at his position, big plays don't come around often, so what he and fellow backup defensive tackle Martin Chase focus on is pushing starters Larry Webster and Tony Siragusa for their jobs.

For sure, both second-year tackles are likely to play more this season. By the end of camp, one could emerge a starter. The door is open, with new defensive line coach Rex Ryan's arrival and, more importantly, the free-agent departure of starter James Jones.

Jones called the defensive line signals. He led the defensive tackles in sacks (5.5) and tackles (75). With Jones gone, Webster is scheduled to replace him, but Webster hasn't been a starter in his six previous years in the NFL.

Plus, this will be the 10th season for Siragusa, 32, so Dalton and Chase anticipate lots of playing time this season.

"Our job as professionals is to push them," Chase said. "And they are supposed to push us. If we are not going to push them, then there is no reason for us to be here."

Ryan said he likes what he is seeing in Chase and Dalton, and believes those two, along with the starters, can more than compensate for the loss of Jones.

Chase was off to a good start in camp last season before he hurt his right ankle two weeks in and was placed on injured reserve, forcing him to miss the entire season. Chase, 6 feet 2 and 295 pounds, drafted by the Ravens in the fifth round out of Oklahoma, said his ankle has recovered fully.

"James was a good football player, no question, but we think out of Larry Webster, Lional Dalton, Martin Chase, somebody is going to step up there," Ryan said. "We also have Fernando Smith, who is a guy we didn't have last year. We didn't get anybody in the draft, so we really feel good about those guys.

"Chase got hurt last year, but I am from Oklahoma so I got a chance to see him play in college, and I think he is very capable. We're excited about all our guys."

In extremely limited playing time last season, Dalton had four tackles. As for what is going to happen this season with increased playing time, Dalton said his game will speak for itself.

"When he was in there, he was productive," Ryan said. "In fact, we were kidding him that he may have forced Barry into retirement."

Getting to camp

From Baltimore: Take Interstate-695 to Exit 19 to Interstate-795 north to its end. Follow signs to Westminster via Route 140 west to Route 31 south. At blinking yellow light, turn left (Route 31). At first traffic light, turn left on Main Street. Proceed up the hill. The parking entrance is on the left.

Ravens camp

When: Through Aug. 26

Where: Western Maryland College, Westminster

Information: 410-261-FANS

Directions: [Page 8D]

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