Thompson stars with usual supporting cast

Ravens notebook

Fractured pinkie extends reserve safety's streak

August 14, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

It must be football season, since Bennie Thompson is sporting a cast.

The Ravens' reserve safety, who at 36 is the oldest player on the team, made light of the fractured pinkie he suffered on his left hand in Thursday's preseason-opening 10-7 victory over Philadelphia.

Thompson, fresh off a Pro Bowl season as a special teams player, got hurt while playing safety with the third-team defense in the second half. He does not remember the play in question.

This keeps an interesting streak alive. Since coming to Baltimore with the Cleveland Browns in 1996, Thompson has yet to make it through a season without requiring a cast of some kind on one of his hands.

"I feel comfortable. I've got my usual cast on. Now I'm ready to play," Thompson said. "I felt like a man out there playing with a bunch of boys [Thursday night]."

Thompson did his usual solid job of covering on special teams, recording one solo tackle. He also had three solo tackles, a pass deflection and a forced fumble while working on defense.

Sharper sees time in dime

Outside linebacker Jamie Sharper wants to be an every-down player for the first time in his three-year career. Against the Eagles, Sharper got extensive work in the second half with the second-team, dime-package unit in passing situations.

"It was great to get all of those reps in the dime," Sharper said. "I want to show people that I can be counted on all the time."

Sharper plays the deep middle in the dime, and he was on the wrong side of the Eagles' biggest play from scrimmage -- a 34-yard pass completion from quarterback Bobby Hoying to wide receiver Chris Fontenot that set up the game-tying touchdown with 4: 26 left in the game.

On the play, Fontenot appeared to get away with pushing off on Sharper while the ball was in the air. Sharper barely missed batting away the pass, which resulted in a completion to the Ravens' 7.

Sharper argued with an official about the no-call, to no avail.

"[Fontenot] pushed off when I was turning around to look for the ball," Sharper said. "I just put my hand up. Never saw the ball, and he caught it. He definitely pushed me. But [the Eagles] were playing at home. We can't expect to get calls like that."

Ofodile on bubble again

Tight end A. J. Ofodile has been on the bubble before -- a year ago to be exact. He was one of the last players cut after an excellent preseason. The Ravens then re-signed him later that same week.

Ofodile is staring at a depth-chart reality once again. Aaron Pierce, Lovett Purnell and Greg DeLong are ahead of him, and Ofodile's special teams work has been limited to the second-team, punt return unit.

Ofodile, who admittedly has had to work on improving his blocking, responds to the depth chart with an expression that says, "What, me worry?"

"Normally, I would read into that. This year, I don't," said Ofodile, who played for the entire second half on Thursday and finished with one catch for 1 yard. "I'm pretty far back in the depth chart [on special teams], but all of the tight ends are.

"There's so much competition going on. Whoever that last tight end spot is, is not necessarily competing with another tight end. He might be competing with a defensive back or a fullback or a special teams guy. My focus is on working hard and getting better. Playing well takes care of itself."

As for his showing against the Eagles, Ofodile thinks his improvement as a blocker is evident, although he said he could have finished some blocks more crisply.

"It was a typical first preseason game," said the third-year veteran. "Probably an average game, nothing great, nothing terrible. Something to build on."

Webster makes strides

Larry Webster said his first start at left defensive tackle, more than anything else, was about getting comfortable with the timing and nuances that develop among a front four.

Webster, who is replacing James Jones -- he left via free agency for Detroit in February -- did not make a tackle Thursday. But he thought he controlled his gap responsibilities well, and he took a step forward in learning how to play in tune with right tackle Tony Siragusa and left end Rob Burnett.

"I had a couple of missed tackles, but as far as handling my responsibilities, things went pretty well," said Webster, who has never been a starter in six previous seasons.

Pub Date: 8/14/99

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