Thompson's special friendship with O'Brien on hold for game

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Former special teams coach is now with Panthers

August 24, 1999|By Mike Preston and Brent Jones | Mike Preston and Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Ravens special teams ace Bennie Thompson was especially close with former Ravens special teams coach Scott O'Brien, but Thompson won't be conferring with him much this week. O'Brien now is the special teams coach of the Carolina Panthers, whom the Ravens play Saturday.

When both were with the Ravens last season, Thompson was O'Brien's coach on the field.

"I know Scotty just as well as he knows me," Thompson said. "Believe me, he knows what it's going to take to beat this team. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He trained a lot of these guys.

"I definitely know he is going to send out some guys to get me. He knows it will take two of them 'cause one ain't going to get the job done."

Former Ravens strength and conditioning coach Jerry Simmons is also with Carolina in the same capacity, along with Brian Kinchen, now a Panthers tight end.

Turner catches up

In one-on one drills with the receivers and cornerbacks, Floyd Turner reached back and made a spectacular one-handed catch in the morning session of practice, drawing some cheers from the crowd.

Two days before that, Turner did not have the chance for such heroics in the Ravens' 19-6 preseason win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Coach Brian Billick acknowledged he didn't get Turner in the lineup as much as he should have.

"It's my error for not getting Floyd Turner and Billy Davis into the game," Billick said. "They'll see more this weekend. It was the tenor of the game. The first half went as planned. The second half was supposed to be 20-25 snaps. But two 60-yard bombs will do that to you."

The bombs he was referring to were to speedster Patrick Johnson, who finished with five catches for 170 yards.

The first half featured the Scott Mitchell-Jermaine Lewis show, which kept Turner out of the mix. Turner, entering his 11th season, said he's not taking this as a bad sign.

"I thought I'd play a little more, but the decision was for me to play not as much," Turner said. "I don't even look at it. I'll just sit back and wait and see what is on their minds. I've been playing too long to worry about things I can't control. That is one thing I have no control of."

In Turner, the Ravens have someone who put up his second-highest receiving yardage total (512) last season, including two 100-yard games in December.

The problem for Turner is that he is competing against three young receivers in Lewis, Brandon Stokley and Johnson, almost all assured of making the team. There is also a Billick disciple from Minnesota in Qadry Ismail, a veteran of owner Art Modell's teams in Webster Slaughter and two more guys younger than he in Davis and Justin Armour.

"When I do play, I'll just make sure I do the things I do well. That is all I can do," Turner said.

Woodson a step behind

These are words that aren't spoken too often by a 13-year NFL veteran.

"I'm glad it is preseason," Rod Woodson said.

Woodson's sentiment is because of the growing pains he is going through after moving from cornerback, where he made seven Pro Bowl appearances, to free safety. His reaction time is a step slower than vintage Woodson, and at times he's having trouble finding and reading the quarterback.

So Woodson, just like rookies and those players who are fighting for roster spots, is using these two-a-day practices and four preseason games to their full extent.

"I'm still learning," said Woodson, 34. "It's a different viewpoint being 10 to 15 yards deep instead of being up on the line of scrimmage. It's a learning curve for me. I'm getting my feet under me."

The Ravens decided to go with youth at cornerback, with rookie Chris McAlister, second-year man Duane Starks and fourth-year player DeRon Jenkins. At the same time, they wanted to keep Woodson, who led the team in interceptions last season, on the field.

He has had one tackle in each preseason game.

"I've always been on the line of scrimmage with one player in front of me," Woodson said. "That was all I worried about. Now I got to see the back, tight end, wide receiver. I'd like to react a little better. I'd like to break into things faster than I am now. Once I get truly comfortable, I'll be able to do that."

Mitchell passes on fumbles

Scott Mitchell does not want to think nor talk that much about his preseason fumbles.

Mitchell fumbled twice in the first quarter Saturday against the Falcons, duplicating his two fumbles in the first quarter the previous week against Philadelphia.

His first fumble Saturday came on the exchange with the center. The other three were from hits or trying to escape defenders.

"You want to understand why it went wrong," Mitchell said. "You don't want to dwell on it. It [the exchange] almost has to be second nature. As a quarterback, you just want to make sure you keep your hands in there."

Backup quarterback Tony Banks had similar troubles, fumbling once against the Falcons.

Boulware at full speed

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