Off-kilter Mitchell seeks to start back at center

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

AFC defensive honor of week goes to Burnett

Pro Football

September 07, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Ravens center Jeff Mitchell may be snapping back into the starting lineup.

For now, Mitchell has been listed as questionable for the home opener against Jacksonville after suffering a contusion on a kneecap Sunday in Pittsburgh. But while the four-year veteran sat out yesterday's workout, he expects to resume practicing today and still has hopes of starting.

"It's improved drastically the past three days," said Mitchell, who participated in yesterday's morning walk-through. "It's really doing well. Hopefully, it stays on this track."

Said Ravens coach Brian Billick: "We may let him ease his way through and crank him up a little bit [tomorrow] and Friday."

Mitchell, who has started 20 straight games, doesn't have as much stiffness in the knee, but has noticed that he's not generating the same power pushing off the line. Right guard Mike Flynn filled in at center yesterday.

Although Mitchell won't play if the risk is too high of injuring it further, he desperately wants to play against the Jaguars, winners of all eight meetings with the Ravens. Mitchell's primary assignment would be five-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson.

Top defender

Three days after his second career victory in Pittsburgh, defensive end Rob Burnett received another prize. The 11-year veteran was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his six-tackle performance, which included a forced fumble that led to a Ravens field goal.

"As long as we win, it's good," Burnett said.

It's his first such honor as a Raven. Burnett earned that award previously with the Cleveland Browns.

Ja. Lewis: No more bracing

Backup running back Jamal Lewis, the team's top draft pick, removed his brace along with bad memories associated with it. Lewis, who dislocated his left elbow on July 28, practiced without any protection on the arm for the first time since injuring it.

"I'm out of it and I'm done with it," Lewis said. "Now it's free and ready to go.

"Now I won't have to think about carrying the ball with that arm and being scared that it might come out because of the big brace. A lot of bad habits were picked up with it."

Billick expects to integrate Lewis more into the game plan for Sunday.

"It will continue to progress with each week," Billick said. "We'll find him in a specific formation grouping this week, as compared to last week, where we just tried to substitute it."

Beware of DeLong

The Jaguars' newest addition, tight end Greg DeLong, could help them beyond just catching the ball Sunday. DeLong, who played last year with the Ravens as well as spending the entire off-season with the team, was signed by Jacksonville on Monday, a little more than a week after reaching an injury settlement with the Ravens.

"I'm sure there are a couple of things he can share with [them] in terms of some checks and audibles," Billick said. "We'll certainly take that into account and adapt ourselves to a degree."

Hurt Jags not weary

Of the 11 Jaguars on the injury report, their top two running backs - Fred Taylor (knee) and Stacey Mack (ankle) - are listed as questionable. Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said Taylor did not practice yesterday.

"When you lose [safety] Carnell Lake, when you lose [tackle] Leon Searcy, when you lose the number of guys that we have, it's hard to replace these people," Coughlin said. "But our attitude has been good."

Searcy and tight end Damon Jones are the only Jaguars out for the game.

Johnson at standstill

Patrick Johnson, the starting flanker at the beginning of training camp before breaking his collarbone, is in a holding pattern. Johnson, who was cleared to play last week, was inactive against the Steelers.

"They've talked to me about playing, but I don't know how much I'll play," Johnson said. "I just have to wait for my opportunity to come back around and make some plays."

End zone

Backup tackle Kipp Vickers (knee) is listed as questionable, but suited up yesterday. ... The Ravens are 1-3 in their home openers, losing their past three.

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