Starter Rhett ready to hit ground running again

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

His 101-yard performance, Holmes' injury open door

September 23, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

As expected, Ravens coach Brian Billick named Errict Rhett the starting tailback in Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.

Rhett started last week against Pittsburgh in place of the injured Priest Holmes -- who was downgraded from questionable to doubtful yesterday with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee -- and rushed for 101 yards, his first 100-yard game since 1995.

With Holmes headed for the sidelines, Billick said he will activate third-year tailback Jay Graham as Rhett's backup.

"Sometimes, life changes," said Rhett, who rode the bench for the final 13 games after an encouraging start followed by a hamstring injury in 1998. "I was ready for every single game last year, if someone went down. I used to burn so much energy just being ready to play. It felt like I played a game when I left the stadium."

Rhett "runs with that no-one-man-is-going-to-bring-me-down mentality," Billick said. "What I'm pleased about are the things he's done in pass protection. He runs hard and he runs with enthusiasm. Now if we only could get him to shut up in the huddle."

As for Holmes, who wore a brace against Pittsburgh and played in only one series, he had a magnetic resonance imaging test yesterday, which confirmed the team's original diagnosis, according to Bill Tessendorf, the Ravens' head trainer. Tessendorf said the MRI also showed "a little more inflammation" around the knee.

Tessendorf said Holmes, who did not practice, would not play this week, but hopefully will be ready for the Ravens' Oct. 3 game in Atlanta.

Linebacker Tyrell Peters (hamstring) also did not practice yesterday, and is listed as questionable for the Browns game along with offensive lineman James Atkins, who went through his first full practice since tearing his right hamstring six weeks ago.

Mitchell `disappointed'

Two days after he was demoted from starting quarterback to No. 3 on the depth chart behind Stoney Case and Tony Banks, Scott Mitchell was trying to take the drastic development in stride.

"I'm disappointed that this happened. I didn't play good, we're 0-2, and I didn't get the job done," Mitchell said. "I wanted this to work out. I wanted to do a good job when I came here. I tried to make it work. It just didn't."

Mitchell's run ended early in the third quarter of Sunday's 23-20 loss to Pittsburgh. In six quarters, he completed 24 of 56 passes (42.9 percent) for 236 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.

Not that big a deal

If you think Sunday's visit by the Cleveland Browns strikes a special nerve in the Ravens' locker room, think again.

With the exception of five players -- defensive linemen Rob Burnett and Larry Webster, safeties Stevon Moore and Bennie Thompson and kicker Matt Stover -- none of the Ravens was part of the original Browns who moved to Baltimore in March 1996.

And even for the remaining five, the significance of the Browns coming back to Baltimore under such circumstances draws nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders.

"This is a divisional game. We're 0-2, and we've got to get it done, whether it's Cleveland or whoever. It's really no big deal," said Burnett. "You can ask anybody on this team who has moved to another team and has played against his old team. It's the same thing. It's the nature of the business."

Said Stover: "There's a little reminiscing about the days in Cleveland. There have been times when I've thought, `Wow, we're going to play the Cleveland Browns.' It will be weird seeing those guys. But it doesn't matter who we do it against. We've got to get to 1-2.

"There is definitely some animosity in Cleveland toward Baltimore. I don't think Baltimore feels the same way. It's like when we played Indianapolis last year. [Baltimore fans] wanted to kick their tails, but I don't think Indy felt the same way about Baltimore."

Ofodile opportunity

Lovett Purnell's loss was A. J. Ofodile's gain. When the Ravens cut Purnell, for whom they gave up a sixth-round pick in this year's draft to New England, they promoted the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Ofodile.

Ofodile, a third-year tight end who was inactive for the first two games, will be active against Cleveland.

"I concentrated on getting stronger in the off-season, and that has helped me become a better blocker," Ofodile said. "I like this offense a lot. This is where I've always wanted to be."

Palmer sidesteps issue

Browns coach Chris Palmer is trying to do his best to downplay the emotion in Cleveland over the Browns' first visit to Baltimore.

When he was asked if he remembered his reaction in 1995 when the Browns announced they were moving, he said, "At my age, I can't remember that far back. You're not going to bait me into that one."

Policy more subdued

Browns president Carmen Policy was brimming with confidence at the start of the season.

"We went out and built a team with the idea of `this year, we win or we die.' "

He was much more subdued after the team lost its opener to Pittsburgh, 43-0.

Asked if it was a good idea to open with Pittsburgh, he jokingly said that the Browns' owner, Al Lerner, "thought it was a very good idea to play the Steelers on opening night in prime time, and so did the [NFL] commissioner, so yes, it was a wonderful idea."

Et cetera

The Ravens have converted only six of 27 third-down chances (22.2 percent), while their opponents have been successful on 13 of 31 tries (41.9 percent). The Ravens have only been in the red zone four times in two games, while their opponents have been their 10 times. Seven of Kyle Richardson's 13 punts have dropped inside the opponents' 20.

Sun staff writer Vito Stellino contributed to this article.

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