Boulware injury mars win

Shoulder aggravated

Case leads 4-0 Ravens past Giants, 28-24

September 04, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Beneath the surface of the Ravens' last-second, 28-24 win over the New York Giants yesterday at PSINet Stadium, there was a stunning development as Peter Boulware, the team's Pro Bowl outside linebacker, was only able to participate in 16 plays before re-injuring his right shoulder.

Boulware first hurt the shoulder while tackling running back Sean Bennett on a draw play with 1 minute, 44 seconds left in the first quarter. He left the game a play later and was replaced by third-year player Cornell Brown. Boulware had only one assisted tackle yesterday in his first action of the preseason.

The Ravens had limited Boulware and defensive end Michael McCrary, who had off-season knee surgery, during training camp and both were held out of the first three preseason games. Boulware's debut yesterday was supposed to be a springboard into the regular season.

The Ravens tried to downplay the injury yesterday, but it has become apparent that Boulware could have problems during the regular season, too. He initially hurt the shoulder in the second game of the 1998 season against the New York Jets, and then re-injured it on the last play of a June minicamp.

"Basically, I took a shot in the arm and it tweaked my shoulder a little bit," said Boulware from his home last night. "If this was the regular season, I could have played. But because it's still the preseason, I thought it was best to come out.

"Because there is still some pain lingering, it just tells me this is something I'm going to have to deal with the rest of the season," said Boulware, who was named to the 1998 AFC Pro Bowl squad, and is expected to start next Sunday in the opener against St. Louis.

There was speculation early in training camp that the team had misdiagnosed the injury, but Boulware repeated yesterday that was not the case. He said he thought his shoulder was fully healed and did not have his shoulder harness fully laced yesterday because it hinders his mobility. Boulware said that won't happen again.

"The injury was definitely diagnosed correctly," Boulware said. "Some people can play with the injury and they are fine. Others can't because of the position they play or the way they get hit. If I tie the harness tight, the shoulder won't come out. But I thought it was healthy so I didn't tie it like I might have before. It was disappointing, but injuries are part of the game."

Said Ravens coach Brian Billick: "The alternative is to IR [injured reserve] him right now and give up on the season. The doctors have told us that would be ill-advised at this time. That's not what Peter wants to do, that's not what the doc says is right. We'll take this one step at a time and whatever capacity we can get out of Peter, however long that would last -- it may last the whole season, it may be one game."

Boulware's injury was the biggest setback of an otherwise decent training camp and preseason as the Ravens finished 4-0 for the second straight season. The Ravens still have problems and probably aren't playoff bound, but the team has displayed character in winning its last two games in the final 30 seconds.

Yesterday, No. 3 quarterback Stoney Case threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Brandon Stokley down the right sideline as safety Lyle West, a rookie from San Jose State, gambled for an interception and lost. Last Saturday, Case threw a 41-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Billy Davis with 10 second remaining for a 28-24 win over the Carolina Panthers.

Case won't skip past backup Tony Banks to challenge Scott Mitchell for the starting quarterback job, but he exhibits a strong work ethic that Billick likes in this team. Case threw the ball in a perfect spot to the outside of Stokley, who has been one of the team's most impressive players in preseason.

"I thought we'd have had a couple of ticks left on the clock, but it doesn't matter now, does it?" Case said. "I felt really confident today. I'm getting the system down. That's a backup's job, to come off the bench when your number or name is called. Two games, two wins, two come-from-behind wins, that's a quarterback's dream."

"I like this team. I like these guys," Billick said. "I can't say that about every team I've been with. They work hard and they want to do well. There has been no quit in these guys. We're just beginning to think and talk about being a team, but so far, they have shown great character."

The Ravens needed the comeback because they blew two goal-line opportunities. Running back Jay Graham fumbled at the Giants' 1 with two minutes left in the game, and six minutes earlier Case, again on the New York 1, had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by cornerback Andre Weathers in the end zone. If the pass had not been tipped, tight end A. J. Ofodile was wide open in the back of the end zone.

"If you can get him not to fumble and them not to bat it down, you've got two good plays," Billick said.

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