Swayne at front of line for another Super feast

Ravens: Offensive tackle Harry Swayne, about to play in his fourth Super Bowl, has shown a knack for being in the right spot.

January 25, 2001|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - Who says dealing with ticket requests and media masses during Super Bowl week gets old? Not Harry Swayne.

"Definitely not old," the Ravens' right offensive tackle said of returning to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in his 14-year career. "I could come back every year."

No Raven has been so fortunate, but Swayne, who will turn 36 on Feb. 2, represents the team's elder statesman in Super Bowl experience. (Tight end Shannon Sharpe is in his third.)

Thus far, Swayne is 2-for-3 in the Super Bowl, winning the championship with the 1997 and 1998 Denver Broncos and losing with the 1994 San Diego Chargers.

His teammates and coaches hope that Swayne, who has played in 16 postseason contests, will parlay that experience into an additional championship ring.

"He's been in three of these things and won two of them," said Ravens offensive line coach Jim Colletto. "That's very helpful, because he can explain this to the guys."

That veteran leadership has been a part of his progression since the 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman was drafted in the seventh round as a defensive end by Tampa Bay in 1987. After enduring four losing seasons there and making the transition from defensive end to right tackle, Swayne was signed by the Chargers as a free agent in 1991.

In San Diego, Swayne met offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, who introduced his young protege to the world of video.

"That opened up the door for me," Swayne said of meeting Gibbs. "He taught me the importance of studying film and being prepared for games."

Three seasons later, Swayne was the starting left tackle for the Chargers, who lost in Super Bowl XXIX to Steve Young and the San Francisco 49ers.

He joined the Broncos after the 1996 season and promptly enjoyed back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl with John Elway and Terrell Davis. Both games ended in championship rings.

Swayne was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Ravens in February 1999, in part to replace a departed Orlando Brown, who left for Cleveland. His 1999 season was cut short by a broken ankle, but Swayne returned this season to start 13 games and anchor a line that has produced a 1,000-yard rusher in rookie Jamal Lewis.

Swayne's durability has impressed teammates such as right guard Mike Flynn.

"If you play in the league for 13, 14 years, you're doing something right," Flynn said. "He brings an experience that is important."

Colletto said he has learned he doesn't have to approach Swayne on Saturdays because of his intense commitment to studying his opponents via videotape.

"I leave him alone, because I know he'll be ready to start," Colletto said. "The good players do that."

Swayne will likely match up against the Giants' Michael Strahan, a dangerous defensive end who has caused all sorts of playoff havoc on quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper.

Swayne said he relishes the challenge of matching his tremendous upper-body strength with Strahan's brute force.

"He doesn't have a lot of moves because he uses his power," Swayne said. "I can't make a mistake against him. Like a lot of impact players, if you make a mistake, he'll beat you."

Before the playoffs, only two other Ravens offensive linemen - guard Orlando Bobo with the 1997 Minnesota Vikings and long snapper John Hudson with the 1995 Philadelphia Eagles and the 1998 New York Jets - had some playoff experience.

So it was up to Swayne to deliver some wise words to his linemates.

"I told them that the tempo and intensity of the playoffs would pick up incrementally as we continued to progress through the playoffs," Swayne recalled. "How they would handle it would determine how far we could go. ... The young guys up front have done that."

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