Ravens set to tackle depth at linebacker

eye Packers' Koonce

Billick aimed to bolster position even before Lewis status in question

Pro Football

May 11, 2000|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens have interest in obtaining depth at the linebacking positions, and have at least three prospects, including Green Bay Packers strong side linebacker George Koonce.

Koonce, 31, is a possible candidate along with former St. Louis Rams middle linebacker Lorenzo Styles, 26, and former Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Steve Tovar. Styles and Tovar, 30, are free agents while Koonce is under contract to the Packers.

But Ralph E. Vitolo, Koonce's agent, said the Packers did not invite Koonce to a recent minicamp and Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf has already told him that Koonce would be waived on or around June 1, making him a free agent.

Ravens coach Brian Billick said immediately after the season was over that the team wanted to add depth behind starters Ray Lewis, the middle linebacker, strong side linebacker Peter Boulware and weak side linebacker Jamie Sharper.

But the team also has to look into a possible replacement for Lewis, who goes on trial on two murder charges next week in Atlanta. The Ravens would prefer a veteran in the middle who would be able to recognize formations and make the proper calls and adjustments. Brad Jackson and Cornell Brown took most of the repetitions for Lewis at a recent minicamp.

"From the moment the season has ended, Brian Billick has said we needed to shore up our linebacking corps and we will look at several options," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens vice-president of player personnel, in a brief statement.

According to a league source, the Ravens, Seattle and Miami have interest in the 6-foot-1, 245-pound Koonce. He has spent all eight of his NFL seasons in Green Bay, where he has been a starter since 1992. As a strong side linebacker, Koonce had 50 tackles last season despite playing with a bad shoulder. He also went through a divorce.

"Playing in those two Super Bowls and having that kind of experience makes him an attractive guy," said Vitolo. "George wants to move into the middle this year, he wants to be a starter. If he joined the Ravens, that would be a nice fit. I would like to keep him on the East Coast."

The 6-1, 245-pound Styles has been with the Rams since midway through the 1997 season. Styles, Charlie Clemons and London Fletcher were in competition for the Rams' starting middle linebacker job before Fletcher won the spot at the beginning of the regular season.

Styles, though, played in all 16 of the Rams' games and had 10 total tackles. He was also fourth on the team in special teams tackles with 20. The Rams waived him last week. His agent, James Gould, was not available for comment.

Tovar, 6-3, 244 pounds, has been in the league seven years, five with Cincinnati. He was in San Diego in 1998 and with the Carolina Panthers last year, where he started seven of 16 games and had 32 tackles.

Tovar's agent, Richard Katz, said the team had not contacted him yet.

NOTES: Billick will be holding his second annual high school coaches clinic Saturday at PSINet Stadium. More than 300 coaches are expected to attend. The camp will begin with breakfast at 7:30 a.m.and end at 1 p.m.

Ravens receiver Patrick Johnson will appear Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon at the Books for Kid's Day at the Poly/Western School parking lot.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.