Schooled in attitude

Ravens: Off-season acquisition Everett Lindsay brings intensity, versatility and knowledge of the system to the offensive line.

August 24, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Former University of Arizona cornerback Chris McAlister may be the Ravens' No. 1 draft pick, but versatile offensive lineman Everett Lindsay has been the team's most valuable off-season acquisition thus far in training camp.

McAlister may one day become an All-Pro, but he has yet to unseat DeRon Jenkins as the starting right cornerback. Meanwhile, Lindsay, acquired for a sixth-round pick in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings, is pushing center Jeff Mitchell and left guard James Atkins for starting spots.

With two games left in the preseason, he might be in the lineup when the Ravens open against the St. Louis Rams on Sept. 12. If it doesn't happen by then, there's a pretty good chance he'll start by midseason.

Why?

"Athleticism and knowledge of the system," said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "He's got an attitude, that nasty, get-after-it attitude that needs to carry over. If we can insert in this line the class of a Harry Swayne and the intensity of an Everett Lindsay, both of which were clearly missed last year, then we're a better offensive line."

Lindsay, 6 feet 4 and 302 pounds, started at left guard against the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday night in place of Atkins (sore hamstring). Lindsay played well and on one particular play showed the athleticism that Billick is talking about.

Lindsay was supposed to pull and trap down the right side of the line of scrimmage. On the snap, Lindsay bumped into one Falcons lineman who had penetrated. He quickly shoved him inside and still made the block that sprung Priest Holmes for a 6-yard gain.

Atkins might not have made that play. Neither would Mitchell, who might have to do plenty of pulling this season, much like center Jeff Christy does with the Vikings. Billick was Minnesota's offensive coordinator last season.

"Atkins knows the right time to hit you to drive you past the quarterback," said Ravens defensive tackle Lional Dalton. "He may be the more physical of the players. Everett is more of a position blocker even though he can get physical. He'll do anything to get the job done."

That has been Lindsay's calling card during his six years in the league. He isn't overly big or `exceptionally talented. But he is versatile and downright nasty at times.

If he becomes a starter or not, Lindsay doesn't care.

"When Brian first came to me, he said I had a chance to start but I would also be valuable as a backup," Lindsay said. "It really doesn't matter to me. I'm just happy to be playing football. In my mind, I am the starter. You have to stay focused like a starter because you never know when people are going to go down."

Lindsay was in that situation often when he was in Minnesota. Last season he started twice at right tackle, once at left tackle and also played some at right guard for the Vikings. He started three games at center in 1997 and 12 games at left tackle in 1993.

He has no preference to where he plays.

"At center, you're in control," Lindsay said. "Guard is a more physical position, but tackle allows you to be on your own. I can't say if I'm a better pass blocker or a better run blocker. I'm just a football player. I'll do whatever it takes to get the job done. If that requires me to be more physical, then I'll do it. If it requires me to use more finesse, I'll do it.

"I try to outwork people. There are a lot of guys out there more talented than me, but I try to pick something out I can do better than them. If I'm in a scheme where the quarterback drops back seven steps every time he throws, then I probably won't succeed."

Lindsay is as versatile as Billick's offensive system, which is why the Ravens traded for him. He was brought in to help teach it to his fellow offensive linemen as well as help offensive line coach Jim Colletto, who also is involved with this offense for the first time.

That's another reason Lindsay likes to play center.

"The center makes all the calls and the more you know about the offense, the better you are," Lindsay said. "When you know what the running backs' and tight ends' responsibilities are, it makes your job a lot easier. If I get a chance to look at our formation, I even know what the receivers are going to do."

Atkins went through a full team practice for the first time in a week yesterday. All three players -- Mitchell, Lindsay and Atkins -- split time working with the first unit. In the first preseason game, Billick shuffled the players during each series. That won't happen in the regular season. Billick wants a set group.

"Everett is a valuable guy. He has been doing well in training camp," Colletto said. "He can play three positions and has a good feel for the offense. He helps other guys, which is a real plus. I don't know when Brian is going to make a decision. That's something we're going to sit down and talk about in a week or two now that James Atkins is healthy again."

Ravens camp

When: Through Thursday

Where: Western Maryland College, Westminster

Today's practice times: 8: 45 a.m. to 11: 10 a.m.; 3 to 4 p.m.

Information: 410-261-FANS

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