Borderline Ravens get final test

Love hopes to make connection in battle for last secondary spot

`Every play is critical'

2 others in running as final tuneup nears

August 24, 2000|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

The nickname came from the trainer, the off-field attire from his girlfriend, and the opportunity from the Ravens.

Now it's up to cornerback Clarence Love to make the nickname and the opportunity stick.

It will be show-and-tell time for Dr. Love - as he was known through training camp - when the Ravens face the New York Giants tomorrow night in the Meadowlands.

Two days before Sunday's final cut to 53, the preseason finale is the last chance for a handful of borderline players trying to make the Ravens' roster.

"I don't want to think ahead as far as what will happen [on Sunday]," Love said yesterday. "There's always pressure going into a game. Every play is critical."

Love is locked in a three-way competition with cornerback Jermaine Smith and safety Anthony Mitchell for what may be the final roster spot in the secondary. He and Smith are actually competing for the fifth cornerback job on the team.

Love, who spent the last month of 1999 with the Ravens, was conspicuous for his training camp appearance off-the-field. He wore hospital scrubs in a variety of colors, and was quickly dubbed Dr. Love by trainer Bill Tessendorf.

"My girlfriend is a nurse's assistant working her way through college [in Toledo]," Love said. "That's where I got the scrubs."

Defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, meanwhile, has been enamored with Love's potential on the field.

"He's been up and down," Lewis said at one point during camp. "But he's still got to be one of the most talented corners in the NFL not starting. He's got a lot of athletic ability."

If Love makes the team, he knows he'll have to perform on special teams, which is often the difference for players on the bubble.

"I'm serious about my role on special teams," he said. "It's very critical."

Love, 24, made the Philadelphia Eagles as a fourth-round draft choice in 1998. He played six games that year and made four tackles as a nickel back in a game against the Dallas Cowboys. He was among the Eagles' final cuts in 1999, spent two months on the practice roster with the Jacksonville Jaguars and then joined the Ravens in December.

His departure from the Eagles had more to do with his approach to the game than his raw cover ability.

"I was young back then and didn't know what the game required," Love said. "I grew a lot since my rookie year. It took some adjusting that first year. You have to have a real professional work mentality."

It appears to have been a lesson learned. He committed himself to knowing each of the Ravens' defenses through training camp, then worked to know them better. He has heard his share of feedback.

"When coaches get on you, it means they see something in you," Love said. "I've been getting a lot of that. I always hear [them calling] my name."

Having been through two pro camps, Love said he resists counting the defensive backs and roster spots.

"I don't play that game," he said. "I'd rather somebody come up and tell me if I made the team. I just go out and do the best I can."

Love and Smith have both gotten a lot of preseason playing time. They have identical preseason stats: two tackles and two passes defensed apiece. Furthermore, they each have one special teams tackle in three games.

Said Lewis of Smith: "He's got the ability to be a corner on this level."

Mitchell, the third defensive back in contention for a job, has four tackles at safety and four on special teams.

"We sent him to NFL Europe and he made great progress," Lewis said of Mitchell. "You can see that in his play now. He has the athletic ability to be a good safety in the NFL."

Next for Ravens

Preseason opponent: New York Giants

When: Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

Where: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

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.