Back at work, Ravens throw welcoming party

Grbac, Searcy, Heap join fun at minicamp

April 28, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The first touchdown of minicamp resonated throughout the Ravens' Owings Mills complex.

Just 10 minutes before the team's first meeting, a helicopter landed on the 50-yard line of the practice field. The Goose was in the house.

Tony Siragusa, the Ravens' boisterous, 350-pound defensive tackle, hopped out of the chopper and hammed it up in front of his teammates, pointing at his flexed right biceps.

The Super Bowl champions' minicamp/party had officially begun.

"I guess that's the only way he can get in here," tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "It looks like he picked up a few pounds in the off-season. The helicopter was the only way he could get in. Bus or train wasn't going to do it."

It seemed like old times, with Siragusa strutting and Sharpe jawing. The newcomers did their best to soak in the celebration while adjusting to their new team.

Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac assumed the head of the offense. Right tackle Leon Searcy tested out the quadriceps injury that forced him to miss all of last season. And tight end Todd Heap, the team's top draft pick, got his first taste of life in the NFL.

But moving forward proved difficult when the Super Bowl trophy sat a few steps outside the locker room.

"I feel like a kid that couldn't come out to recess," Searcy said. "Everybody is talking about rings and championships and I sit back and wait my time. I keep asking all the guys in the locker room, `Do you have one more in you?'

"It's good to be around guys who know what it takes to win. They are champions. I'm hoping that their aura falls on me."

The first practice of minicamp was upbeat yet casual. Players did not suit up in pads, as coaches stressed timing over contact.

Grbac, a student of the West Coast offense from his San Francisco 49ers days, never seemed too out of sync. His best pass came late in practice when he hit Jermaine Lewis in stride on a deep sideline route, showing off some arm strength.

"You don't have to see Elvis Grbac in shorts in a jog-around atmosphere to decide if he's a great quarterback or not," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Just put on the film. But it's been fun to watch Elvis throw the ball around.

"He's still thinking out there. But he knows where everybody is supposed to be, which is a good thing."

The switch from sentimental favorite Trent Dilfer to Grbac drew no public criticism in the locker room. The change at quarterback has become somewhat expected now for receivers like Patrick Johnson, who enters his fourth season greeting his seventh starting quarterback.

"Since I've been here, that's been what we've had to do," Johnson said. "We have had to start all over and get used to another guy. We've done it a lot of times. It's not hard for us to come in and adjust to who's playing."

Grbac has begun to fit in already despite his unusual situation. He came to the Ravens accepting the expectations of taking over a Super Bowl team.

Stepping into the hot seat isn't ground-breaking territory for Grbac, the quarterback who inherited Joe Montana's locker with the 49ers. But Grbac does admit to being a little jealous of his teammates.

"I was just thinking that June 9th is the ring ceremony and I'll be home playing with my kids while they'll be getting their rings," he said. "They deserve it, but we're going to get another one."

The other veteran newcomer, Searcy, completed a small first step in a long-awaited comeback.

Last year with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the 6-foot-4, 320-pound veteran did not play a down because of a torn quadriceps above his right knee. He suffered the injury in the first padded practice of last year's training camp with the Jaguars.

Yesterday marked his first full practice in nine months.

"I don't care how old I get, but I wonder if I'm slipping here and am I still hungry," Searcy said. "I won't answer all that right now. This camp is not for addressing that. When training camp comes around, I'll answer some of those questions."

Unlike Grbac and Searcy, Heap expected to be a little raw in practice. The 31st pick in the draft, Heap has had the playbook for only six days. He displayed sound hands in his first day and even wrestled away a pass from safety Anthony Poindexter.

"I'm going to be out there running around and not knowing what is going on," Heap said. "I'm hoping that I can have the coaches and a couple of players teach me and give me a few pointers."

Not by coincidence, Heap's locker is right next to Sharpe's. During practice, Sharpe was constantly in Heap's ear, offering pointers between plays.

The mentor role is one that Sharpe, 32, is willing to accept. He intends to play two more seasons before calling it quits on his probable Hall of Fame career.

"Yeah, I'm going to take him under my wing," Sharpe said. "Hopefully, I can leave the position in a lot better shape than when I got here."

The minicamp/party continues today and tomorrow, with the more stringent workouts scheduled for June.

This three-day session, though, is expected to end in the same fashion that it began. The helicopter is slated to return tomorrow to pick up Siragusa.

"Heck, I'm not a flashy guy," said Siragusa, grinning widely. "I'm very low-key."

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