Out West, K. Washington hurls a few barbs back East

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

New Bronco talks trash to ex-teammates with showdown looming

Pro Football

September 29, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Bill Romanowski and Shannon Sharpe have limited their trash-talking this week, but Keith Washington has picked up the slack.

While the Denver Broncos' linebacker and the Ravens' tight end have long been two of the fastest mouths in the NFL, Washington spent most of his first six seasons in the league - the past four in Baltimore - in obscurity. He was the unlikely star in last January's divisional playoff win at Tennessee when he blocked two Al Del Greco field goals. Anthony Mitchell returned the second 90 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in a 24-10 victory over the Titans.

The salary cap and Washington's desire to escape the shadow of veteran defensive ends Rob Burnett and Michael McCrary sent him to Denver last March. After a quiet Monday night opener against the New York Giants, Washington had a sack and another tackle in a rout of the Arizona Cardinals, then began to toss barbs Baltimore's way.

How does he compare the defense he left to Denver's?

"I made the statement when I got here - I still think we're more athletic," Washington said. "It will be interesting to see how that defense [the Ravens'] responds to a great quarterback."

Washington obviously has a high regard for Brian Griese. Any thoughts on All-Pro Ray Lewis?

"Tremendous guy; can fly around and make plays," Washington said, "but when guys get in on him and get into his pads, then he has problems."

The Broncos' starting left end told Lional Dalton that if Sammy Williams starts at Invesco Field tomorrow, he'll get three sacks. If Erik Williams gets the nod at right tackle, Washington promised four.

"We'll see on Sunday," Sammy Williams said. "With the pass rush moves he [Washington] has, I don't think so."

Washington was well-liked in the Ravens' locker room, and the organization's decision-makers regret that he was among the 20 players who left the Super Bowl champions. He was released the day Baltimore signed Leon Searcy, but earlier free-agent signings affected his decision to go west.

"He was a victim of trying to retain Jamie [Sharper] and [Rod] Woodson," senior vice president of football operations Ozzie Newsome said. "He was not only a good backup on defense, but productive on special teams. In the era of the cap, you're faced with situations like that. We would have liked to have been able to keep him."

Washington said he wanted to go somewhere "where I felt like they really wanted me. Toward the end of my years in Baltimore, I didn't know how they felt about me," sentiments Brian Billick understood.

"They [the Broncos] offered him a chance to start, they offered him starter money," Billick said. "With our defensive profile, we just weren't able to do that. I'm happy Keith has found another home."

Heap still ailing

Barring a rapid recovery, tight end Todd Heap will not play tomorrow. The Ravens' first-round draft choice suffered an ankle sprain in last Sunday's loss at Cincinnati, and he remains doubtful on the injury report.

"Those high-ankle sprains are tough," Billick said. "We really didn't think Todd would have much of a chance for this weekend. Those things take awhile."

Billick sounded optimistic about the five players who continued to be listed as questionable. Sammy Williams (knee), Woodson (leg) and McCrary (knee) are expected to start, but Brandon Stokley (knee) may be limited at wide receiver. Jermaine Lewis, who missed the trip to Cincinnati with a hamstring strain, appears ready to resume his return duties.

"Jermaine looks strong," Billick said. "I think he's going to be confident out there."

Reserve linebacker Brad Jackson (chest) remained probable.

Extra points

Billick on the sudden emergence of former Raven Tony Banks as the Redskins' starting quarterback: "I'm happy for Tony. He's a good young man. I'm glad he's getting a chance to get back on the field and show that he belongs in the NFL." ... Former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler was an adherent of three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football, so he'll cringe at the sight of two Wolverines, Griese and Elvis Grbac, putting the ball up. ... Grbac and Griese are the only quarterbacks to replace a starter who left a Super Bowl champ. John Elway retired after Super Bowl XXXIII, and the Ravens didn't re-sign Trent Dilfer. ... Counting last season's playoffs, the Ravens' defense hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 39 straight games. The Broncos have had a 100-yard rusher 14 times over the span of that streak, and they're 14-0 in those games.

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