For rookie Heap, time is on his side

Despite mistake that failed to stop the game clock, tight end flashes promise

Ravens 17, Bears 6

September 10, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Todd Heap made a rookie mistake, but he also displayed the talent and potential that led the Ravens to make him their first-round selection in the 2001 draft.

The 21-year-old tight end out of Arizona State, who was featured on the HBO series Hard Knocks, had five catches for 57 yards in the Ravens' 17-6 win over the Chicago Bears yesterday. Most of the receptions came when coach Brian Billick made use of a two-tight end formation and lined up Heap opposite his mentor, Shannon Sharpe.

"He had a good opening game for us," Billick said of Heap. "He's going to make opponents rethink what they do."

Heap was asked what was on his mind after the Ravens' two-minute drill produced a Matt Stover field goal on the last play of the first half.

That drive was abetted by a 15-yard personal foul by the Bears' Mike Green with two seconds left in the half that was tacked onto an 8-yard catch by Heap. The drive was nearly undone four plays earlier, however, when Heap turned a short pass from Elvis Grbac into a 9-yard gain but failed to get out of bounds with 29 seconds left. The Ravens were forced to burn a timeout.

"That was a mistake," Heap said. "You need to get out of bounds and stop the clock in that situation. That's something that slipped my mind. You play and you learn. Fortunately, I was able to make that next catch and make something happen, and we were able to score.

"I probably would have taken it on myself if the drive had been stopped. That kind of stuff is not acceptable. Part of your job is, you need to know when to get out of bounds."

The fans weren't quite as hard on Heap. After he broke a tackle in the third quarter and stretched a short toss into a 24-yard gain, a prolonged pronunciation of his name was turned into a chant similar to that bestowed on defensive tackle Tony Siragusa.

"I used to get the same cheer in college," said Heap, who was an All-American at Arizona State. "You make a catch, there's a low `Heap,' kind of like Goose's. I'm glad the crowd is getting into it."

The Ravens' youngest player - the only one born in the 1980s - admitted to having some pre-game jitters.

"I don't know if I was nervous, but I was pretty excited with the buildup over this game," Heap said. "It was my first NFL game. It's over, we won, and now the games will slow down a little bit. I know what it's like to make some plays now. ... They doubled Shannon [Sharpe], and when that happens, someone has to step up. I was in the right place at the right time."

"This feels great. We didn't do everything we wanted to, we didn't play like we wanted to, but we ended up getting the win."

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