Mitchell gets passing grades on early tests

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

QB appears quick study

Billick turns up volume

August 03, 1999|By Mike Preston and Kendra Powell | Mike Preston and Kendra Powell,SUN STAFF

Fans concerned about quarterback Scott Mitchell can relax a little. His life as a Raven is going just fine, thank you.

Mitchell has looked generally sharp in training camp, especially considering he is working with a new head coach and system. He has lost weight and has clearly outplayed backup Tony Banks, whom some consider the team's quarterback of the future.

When Mitchell has performed poorly, coach Brian Billick attributed some of it to playing with certain players who have yet to learn the offense.

"He has done well," said Billick of Mitchell. "Right now, he has to do too much. He has to cover a lot of butts, so to speak. Right now, we [coaches] have to do a better job of monitoring who he is in there with, whether its third- or fourth-string guys. We have to keep that to a minimum."

Mitchell said the coaching staff has been throwing a lot of the offense at him quickly, which seems to have been no problem. His biggest adjustment has been getting his legs into football shape.

"We have a fair amount of the offense in," said Mitchell. "The first couple of days, they were throwing a lot at us and I was thinking too much, affecting my drop-back. Today, I wanted it to be more reactionary. We have to learn to be patient with our growing pains."

Snapping to attention

After 1 1/2 days off from practice, the Ravens had a sluggish session yesterday morning in full pads, and Billick was unhappy. He promised a crisp practice in the afternoon and the team delivered, even though the workout was in shorts.

Before the afternoon session, Billick had a team meeting, emphasis on the offense. Evidently, the message got through.

"What they are sensing is my heightened sense of agitation that results in an increase in volume, which my daughters are familiar with," said Billick.

Competition for Harris

Corey Harris is a survivor. He has played in the NFL for eight years because he can double as a safety or kick returner. Last year, he started six games for injured free safety Kim Herring, but led the AFC and finished second in the NFL with a 27.7 kickoff return average on 35 returns.

But he doesn't know if he'll return kickoffs this season. The Ravens' roster is loaded with such return specialists as Qadry Ismail, Steve Broussard, Patrick Johnson and Eric Metcalf.

But Harris said he was in a similar situation last year before he became the full-time return specialist.

"When I first came here last season, I asked Ozzie [Ozzie Newsome, vice president of player personnel] who his kick returners were because that's my little forte," said Harris, who returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown against Minnesota last year, the first in team history.

"Then I look out on the field and I see Jermaine Lewis, Patrick Johnson and Tyrone Hughes, who had just made the Pro Bowl. I was like, how about if I become the upback or something? I started out as just a blocker but the opportunity came, and I just kind of fit in.

"I don't know what my situation is now, but I'll do whatever takes for us to win. We practice way too hard to finish 6-10."

Three games sold out

The Ravens have sold out three home games -- the Pittsburgh Steelers (Sept. 19), Cleveland Browns (Sept. 26) and Buffalo Bills (Oct. 31) -- the club announced. Single-game tickets for other games will go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. at PSINet Stadium and via TicketMaster (410-481-SEAT).

The three home games were sold out through sales to season-ticket holders and subscribers to ravenszone.net, the team's subscriber Web site.

Couldn't stay away

Brandon Stokley, one of the team's fourth-round draft picks, returned to practice yesterday. After a one-day holdout, Stokley had a solid afternoon practice last Thursday, but wasn't as effective Friday morning before he partially dislocated a shoulder.

He was expected to miss four or five days, but was back in the huddle yesterday.

"It feels great just to get out here and produce," said Stokley. "The shoulder feels good and I'm ahead of schedule. I'm familiar with the offense, but I'm still trying to grasp as much as possible.

"Sometimes I feel a little behind, but all I can do is study the playbook and try to get the hang of it."

Back to school

Edwin Mulitalo, a fourth-round pick out of the University of Arizona, held out for a day, and he is also making the transition from left tackle to left guard.

It may not sound like a big step, but Mulitalo played in his last 23 games in college at tackle.

He says it's quite an adjustment.

"Tackles usually deal with players who have finesse," said Mulitalo. "As a guard, I have to adjust to big, fast players who like to bull rush. I'm coming along. I hope by the end of this week, that everything will come together for me."

Mulitalo isn't expected to challenge for a starting position this year, but could be in the mix at left guard next season.

Duelling in corner

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