Broussard, Metcalf running neck-and-neck

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Special teams abilities could swing decision on final backfield spot

August 27, 1999|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Steve Broussard is battling Eric Metcalf, who is almost a mirror image of himself, for one of the Ravens' final running back spots.

Both veterans are known for their outstanding special teams play, with Broussard averaging 26.9 yards on kickoff returns for the Seattle Seahawks last season. His average was second in the league behind Ravens safety Corey Harris (27.6), and he returned his first kickoff for a touchdown.

Metcalf and Broussard are both smaller, older and versatile backs. It is doubtful the Ravens, who have Priest Holmes, Errict Rhett and Jay Graham ahead of both men on the depth chart, will keep both Metcalf and Broussard.

"I don't look at it as a competition," said Broussard, who is in his 10th season. "Eric Metcalf has been in the league 11 years. He's a great running back and receiver. His stats speak for themselves. I've been around. I just look at it as an opportunity."

Broussard signed with the Ravens as a free agent only to find himself on a team with a number of people who excel at returning kicks. Besides Harris and Metcalf, the Ravens have Qadry Ismail, who returned punts for the New Orleans Saints last season.

Broussard has returned two this preseason for 37 yards. He has one carry for a loss of 7 yards.

Metcalf does have a higher kickoff return average (21.5) in two returns this preseason.

"As it looks, I need to establish myself to get a spot on this team," Broussard said. "As this preseason has been going, I need to establish myself on special teams."

Pierce rounds into shape

The battle for the starting tight end spot keeps flip-flopping between Lovett Purnell and Aaron Pierce.

Considering that he missed all of 1998 after deciding to sit out when he was cut by the New York Giants in the off-season, Pierce is in good shape.

Whether he should be starting, Pierce said, he will leave up to the coaches.

"All I am doing is going out there and trying to learn the offense, working hard and worrying about what I can control. That is how I play," he said.

Pierce, in his seventh year, played his entire career with the Giants after getting drafted in the third round in 1992 out of Washington. He started 35 of 72 games in five years with the Giants, but only four in his final season.

Pierce started the preseason opener in Philadelphia, but missed last week's game in Atlanta with a quadriceps injury suffered in warm-ups. He hasn't made a catch this preseason; Purnell has two for 15 yards.

"I didn't have any expectations going into camp," Pierce said. "I've been out of football for a little bit. My body had to adjust, but I only missed one or two practices and one game. I've still got a way to go before I'm 100 percent, but I feel pretty good."

Stokely back at full speed

After missing last week's game with a shoulder injury, rookie wide receiver Brandon Stokley returned this week at full speed in practice and will play tomorrow against the Carolina Panthers.

Stokley's shoulder is still a problem, though.

"The first day I came back, it was kind of sore," Stokley said. "But the last two days it's been fine. It's going to be a season-long deal where I have to rehab it four or five days a week and just try and keep it strong all year long."

The injury was ill-timed for the fourth-round pick out of Southwestern Louisiana, coming off his performance in the preseason opener, when he scored the Ravens' only touchdown and had three catches for 45 yards.

"It's been feeling good. I feel as though I've picked up right where I left off," Stokley said.

"All I've been trying to do in camp is improve every day. When you lose time, that hurts, but when you get back you have to start where you left off."

Mulitalo tackles switch

Rookie offensive lineman Edwin Mulitalo said his first training camp, in which he had to adjust from college to the pros and from tackle to guard, was rough at first but finished on a high.

"Camp started a little slow because I had to get used to the offense," Mulitalo said. "After my first week, everything got a little better and started to look good."

Mulitalo, drafted with the Ravens' second pick in the fourth round, started every game in his two years at Arizona as a left tackle. He said his switch allows him to be a more aggressive lineman.

"Tackle is a little more finesse," Mulitalo said. "The best thing I like about playing guard is being physical. You have to come off of the ball and blast people."

Et cetera

Mulitalo's fellow second-team offensive lineman, Sammy Williams, practiced after sitting out because of a hurt shoulder. Williams said he is having no pain and should play tomorrow. Offensive lineman James Atkins (hamstring) and safety Anthony Poindexter (knee) did not practice. Wide receiver Jermaine Lewis returned to practice after missing the past two with a sore hamstring. Panthers coach George Seifert said quarterback Steve Beuerlein will play the first quarter against the Ravens. Jeff Lewis will play the second and third quarters and Steve Bono the fourth.

Pub Date: 8/27/99

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