Offensive line starts to straighten out

Ravens notebook

Battered unit should return to original lineup Sunday

October 28, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' offensive line is rounding back into healthy form, now that right tackle Harry Swayne has rejoined the practice routine for the first time in almost three weeks.

Swayne went through a full practice yesterday, did some extra running afterward, and pronounced himself nearly ready for Sunday's game against Buffalo.

Swayne suffered a lower left leg contusion against Atlanta on Oct. 3. He practiced on a limited basis the following week but did not play against Tennessee, then suffered a setback that knocked him out of the Kansas City game last Thursday.

"As long as I don't get any major setbacks like the one I had before, it looks like I'll be there for Buffalo," Swayne said. "I didn't do anything crazy [yesterday]. I ran a few team plays, which was good. I got a little live movement. I had some big guys pushing on me. I'll be running every day after practice this week.

"I'll wait until tomorrow morning to see how sore I am, or am not. It's a little sore right now, but not much."

With Swayne back, and left tackle Jonathan Ogden set to play in his second game after overcoming a sprained neck he suffered against Atlanta, the Ravens should line up with their original starting five on Sunday.

"[Swayne] did a lot more than we anticipated. I didn't know he was going to push himself this much," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Unless he has a lot of soreness, tomorrow and Friday looks good and we should be in pretty good shape for Sunday."

James Atkins (thigh) also practiced yesterday. Backup tackle Spencer Folau (sprained knee) did not practice and is doubtful this week.

Less said, the better

Billick would rather not discuss his offense at length. The unit is ranked 24th in the league, averaging 14.2 points a game.

"It's like looking at myself in the mirror," Billick said. "Why look at it? Why stare at it and say, `Dang, you're ugly.' Why subject yourself to that?"

Billick acknowledged that his offense lacks a big-time receiver and a proven quarterback. He said his unit is loaded with fine role players, several of whom are playing with one-year contracts, each of whom he has referred to as "guys thrown on the trash heap of the NFL."

They include wide-outs Qadry Ismail and Justin Armour and tight end Aaron Pierce.

"It's not like I hand-plucked them from other teams or stole them off other rosters, and they know that," Billick said. "They were at home, with nothing going on. [I asked them], `Do you want to play football?'

"The guys we have are hard workers. Clearly, what we are missing is a dominant, go-to guy on the outside. That would allow a lot of these role players to enhance what they do. But I'm glad these guys were available.

"We've dealt with the hand that was given us. Justin and Qadry have shown they can play in this league. I would think Cleveland would love to have Justin Armour right now."

Armour was taken off the Denver roster by the Browns in their February expansion draft, then released in May. Armour is averaging 18.4 yards on 16 receptions and has caught a game-winning touchdown pass for the 2-4 Ravens.

Evans hasn't lost touch

Fullback Chuck Evans, who left Minnesota to reunite with Billick in Baltimore, changed teams partly because he figured he would touch the ball more.

Evans has been fairly involved in the Ravens' offense, having touched the ball a combined 25 times through the first six games.

Evans has carried 13 times for 45 yards and caught 12 passes for 87 yards.

"I'd like to get the ball a little more, but I think with the way things are going and under the circumstances, I've gotten the ball as much as I can," Evans said.

"My main reason for coming here was to block, anyway. I'm a blocking fullback, and anytime I touch the ball is a bonus. I've had some touches. It's not that they're not trying to get me the ball, but [the chances] haven't always been there."

Mixed bag for Mulitalo

Rookie guard Edwin Mulitalo has reviewed his first NFL performance on tape, and the results were mixed.

"I did better at my run blocking than I did in my pass protection," said Mulitalo, a fourth-round draft pick. "Run blocking is always an offensive lineman's forte, or it should be. All you have to do is fire off the ball. Pass blocking is more finesse. In this offense, you've got to know how to pass protect."

Mulitalo said he did not expect to play so soon. He had been inactive for the team's first five games, but injuries to tackles Swayne and Folau and guard/tackle Atkins forced the Ravens to activate Mulitalo last week against Kansas City.

Mulitalo, 6 feet 3, 328 pounds, was pressed into service against the Chiefs when Atkins left the game with a strained groin. Left guard Everett Lindsay moved to right tackle. Mulitalo and Mike Flynn then shared time at left guard.

"Sometimes you can fall into a rut where you're not preparing to play, you're just preparing to practice," Mulitalo said. "I've been told that's the way rookies think. I don't want to get into that rut. I don't want that to happen."

Road worrier

Bills coach Wade Phillips isn't happy about playing on the road against a Ravens team that's had 10 days off, especially after his team made the long trip to Seattle last weekend.

"I don't like playing this game where they get 10 days' rest. It causes some problems for you [after the Seattle trip]. That combination I wouldn't choose, but I can't do anything else about the schedule," he said.

The Bills, who play in Washington next week, are in the middle of a three-game road swing.

Last year, six teams played three-game road stretches and were 3-15 in those 18 games.

Et cetera

After Sunday, the Ravens will play six consecutive games against AFC Central opponents, including four on the road, starting with Cleveland on Nov. 7. Defensive lineman Fernando Smith, who is two weeks removed from arthroscopic knee surgery and did not play against Kansas City, is not listed on the Ravens' injury report this week.

Sun staff writer Vito Stellino contributed to this article.

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