Nash out to catch Ravens' attention

Receiver hopes to turn his career around

Pro football

May 17, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Marcus Nash has caught passes from the likes of John Elway and Peyton Manning. Now, all he wants is to catch a break.

The lanky Ravens receiver is working with his third NFL team in three years and has only four receptions in 11 games to show for it. A 1998 first-round draft pick by Denver, Nash went from being the Broncos' best young downfield target to a popular target for criticism in the league.

He found himself labeled a mistake during one season in Denver before being traded to Miami. He heard he was too expensive for the Dolphins and was released after one practice.

Nash landed with the Ravens in October, resolved to sit while learning a new system as well as regaining the swagger from his high-scoring days at the University of Tennessee.

The next three months will shape up as the most important audition in Nash's career. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound wideout either proves he can fit in among an improving Ravens receiving corps or stake out the life of an NFL journeyman.

"I think I can accomplish a lot of things here," Nash said. "I believe I can score touchdowns. When I'm out there, I have to make the most of it. But there's no pressure on me, because nobody expects me to be out there right now."

It's an extreme change of scenery for Nash.

In Denver, he didn't understand his role or even if he had one. Nash knew he had little chance to crack the starting lineup with Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey already there and didn't receive a smooth transition into coach Mike Shanahan's rigid practice system.

Nash noticed that one dropped ball or one bad route during the week would cost him a spot on that game's roster. He remained on the inactive list for half of his rookie season.

"It's all about confidence," Nash said. "I never felt comfortable, never felt confident in Denver. To go through what I've gone through, it takes a lot out of you as a person, as a football player. You start questioning your ability, questioning whether you can play in this league. You doubt yourself.

"I felt they never really gave me that opportunity. I did some good things my rookie year, I made some big plays for them. Still, I didn't get that opportunity. I was always being pressured upon to stay up and be active that week. I felt that if I was going to make a mistake, they were going to give up on me."

Eventually, the Broncos did and Nash barely unpacked his bags in Miami, which basically looked to unload running back John Avery in the trade. Nash played in only one game last season with the Ravens, and the time off seems to have provided a new perspective.

"Marcus is looking very smooth," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It was one of those deals where I was very intrigued going into this off-seasonexactly how he was going to show up. Certainly, to go through what he's gone through, there's a little bit better appreciation for what it takes to play in the league and seizing an opportunity than when he did coming out."

Billick probably wasn't referring to yesterday's practice, the second of the Ravens' four-day passing camp.

Nash let a pass slip through his hands on one drill and couldn't hold on to a deep ball in the end zone.

At times, Billick and receivers coach Milt Jackson took Nash to the side, clearing up some of his mistakes on plays that he had never run previously.

But Nash didn't appear worried afterward. In fact, he felt right at home.

"It's funny because last year I would be all messed up right now," Nash said with a grin.

"Now, it seems like: So, we can't be perfect all the time.

"This is my rookie year. I feel that comfortable. This is the mindset I should have had my rookie year. This is my start over."

NOTES: The Ravens' top two picks, running back Jamal Lewis and receiver Travis Taylor, arrived yesterday for the second session of the four-day passing camp. ... Chris Redman, the team's rookie quarterback from Louisville, is expected to make his first appearance of the camp today since his school did not finish until yesterday. ... The Ravens signed undrafted free-agent Pedro Edison, a 6-3, 250-pound tight end out of East Tennessee State. He had 12 receptions for 153 yards last season.

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