Herring, Brown may play on Sunday

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Safety and linebacker are improving

Stover has never kicked in Oakland

Ravens Vs. Raiders

January 11, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

The physical conditions of strong safety Kim Herring and reserve linebacker Cornell Brown are improving, and they could play for the Ravens on Sunday.

Brown pulled a hamstring covering a first-quarter punt last Sunday, and did not return to the Ravens' 24-10 divisional playoff victory over the Titans at Tennessee. Herring missed that game with a bruise on his left ankle, which he sustained in the wild-card win over the Denver Broncos. Both took limited roles in practice yesterday.

"I went through the walk-through period and some individual drills," Herring said yesterday. "If I make the same strides by Friday that I made from Monday to now, I think it's a good chance [he'll play]. I've got to get through the pain threshold."

Corey Harris, who started in place of Herring, was second to Ray Lewis in solo tackles, and wound up on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

"I had mixed emotions," Herring said of his spectator role at Adelphia Coliseum. "I was hurting, seeing those guys out there having fun. It's killing me a little bit, but I understand that if I get out there early, it might hurt the team rather than help it. I don't want to rush anything."

Coach Brian Billick said that Brown is "progressing very well," and the fourth-year pro was cautiously optimistic.

"I'm coming along," Brown said. "I'm getting as ready as I can be. I've never had a hamstring go out on me, and I never expected it."

New ground for Stover

Matt Stover has tested the conditions just about everywhere in the NFL over an 11-year career that culminated with his selection to the Pro Bowl this season. He doesn't have a clue about the notorious Raiders' crowds, however, because he has never kicked in Oakland.

"In my 11 years in the league, I've never kicked in Oakland," said Stover, who has been briefed by James Trapp, who spent six seasons with the Raiders. "I've played against Oakland, but never in Oakland. I've heard a lot of things about it. James Trapp and I are good friends. He's given me updates, and if we rely on each other, the surroundings aren't going to affect us.

"The playing surface is great, considering what I've had to play on. Not that our surface is terrible, it's just that much better because it's in California. I know it could get a little wet because of the [Pacific] Ocean and the way the tides come in, but it's nothing I haven't seen before."

After outperforming Al Del Greco, a kicker probably on his way out of the NFL, Stover is matched against rookie Sebastian Janikowski, one of the most heralded talents ever to enter the league.

"What you notice about him is that he's a powerful, powerful kicker, a guy who's going to be one of the best in the league," Stover said. "He's missed a few. I did, too, my first season. I was the best coming out [of college] that year. I wasn't drafted in the first round, I was drafted in the 12th. I respect him. He's going to be one of the best. He's got my leg speed with his size, golly."

Help for Ja. Lewis?

Rookie Jamal Lewis rumbled for 126 yards on 29 carries against the Broncos, and spoke of how fresh his legs felt. After Tennessee limited him to 47 yards on 17 carries, Billick didn't wince at the suggestion that Lewis was tired after an 18-game haul, and said: "It may be a time to get Priest [Holmes] cranked up a little bit more."

Lewis disputed the notion that fatigue was a factor, but didn't talk down an increased role for Holmes, who rushed for 119 yards in the season opener and 588 on the year.

"It's too late to be hitting the wall," Lewis said. "I don't think I'm hitting the wall, he [Billick] just wants to give him [Holmes] more reps, to change things up a little bit. I don't think it has anything to do with me. A big part of our offense is running the football. When you have a good back there like Priest, why not give them a 1-2 punch?"

Lewis added that he has a bruised knee "that's a little sore."

Gibbs: tough trifecta

Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who won three championships in four trips to the Super Bowl, warned that winning three straight games to get to the Super Bowl is super hard.

"When I was coaching we never could do it that way," he said, noting his wild-card entries always fell short. Gibbs, who left football for auto racing, made his remarks yesterday during the preseason Winston Cup motorsports tour in Charlotte.

"I always make mistakes when trying to predict the outcome of the NFL playoffs," he said. "I always follow my heart and that's always wrong."

Yesterday, Gibbs said his heart is leaning toward the New York Giants. He said he is also casting an eye at the Ravens. "That is a killer defense," he said. "Very, very physical. They could go all the way."

Gibbs said it is obvious Baltimore and New York rely on defense. "They're just so smart. And their quarterbacks know as long as they don't do something stupid that their defense will give them a chance to win. There's an art to that."

Extra points

The Ravens practiced at their Owings Mills complex yesterday, but they will travel by bus to PSINet Stadium today for their last full-scale workout of the week. ... After tomorrow's typically light Friday workout, the Ravens will travel to Oakland. Their charter leaves Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 2 p.m. ... In addition to Brown and Herring, fullback Sam Gash (back) was also listed as questionable (50-50) on yesterday's injury report. ... Ravens offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo will participate in a live Internet chat tomorrow from noon to 12:30 p.m. To join in, or send questions in advance, go to www.sunspot.net/sports.

Sun staff writer Sandra McKee contributed to this article.

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