`Questionable' listing questioned


Ravens are skeptical status for Titans' Mason reflects facts of the case

Pro Football

October 05, 2001|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Russ Purnell is not a big believer in injury reports.

That's why the Ravens' special teams coach is not placing much faith in the most recent report that lists Tennessee Titans return specialist Derrick Mason as questionable for Sunday's game at PSINet Stadium.

"I expect him to play," Purnell said of Mason, who set an NFL record with 2,690 all-purpose yards last season. "What Derrick gives them is the experience. He has the pedigree. He knows what to do, and because of that experience, he's going to make fewer mistakes."

If Mason, who has been bothered by ankle and shoulder injuries, does suit up Sunday, he will face a Ravens special teams unit that is trying to overcome Sunday's substandard performance against the Denver Broncos.

With Denver averaging 33 yards per return last week, opponents have gained 29.1 yards a return in three games against the Ravens. Last season, opponents averaged 21.3 yards a return.

Ravens linebacker Brad Jackson, who plays on the special teams unit, said the players and coaching staff have reviewed Sunday's game film to try to correct the mistakes.

"We have to attack, focus and continue doing what we need to do," Jackson said. "We have to go out there and do the basic fundamentals."

If Mason - who returned a kickoff 52 yards against the Ravens Nov. 12 - does not play, the Ravens can expect to see either wide receivers Justin McCareins or Eddie Berlin on the field for the Titans. Not that it matters to safety Anthony Mitchell.

"Regardless of who's back there, we got to get the job done," Mitchell said, adding that he is not awed by Mason. "He's just another returner."

Veteran matchup

When the Titans have the ball Sunday, one matchup to watch will be the one between Tennessee guard Bruce Matthews and Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa.

Matthews, who is in his club-record 18th season with the franchise, has started in 213 consecutive games and played in 216 straight contests, both of which are team records.

If he plays Sunday, he will move into fourth place on the list of career NFL games played by a non-kicker with 283.

Siragusa said he looks forward to matching up with Matthews.

"When you get a good, old veteran like that, you know they're going to do anything to win," said Siragusa, who estimated that he has played against Matthews 14 times in his pro career. "He's the kind of guy you have a lot of respect for, but when you go out there, you can't let your guard down one minute."

Ismail vs. Rolle

If Ravens wide receiver Qadry Ismail plans to haul in another touchdown pass like he did last Sunday against Denver, he will have to do it against Tennessee All-Pro cornerback Samari Rolle.

Rolle, who became the franchise's first cornerback named to the Pro Bowl since Darryll Lewis in 1995, tied for the AFC lead with a career-high seven interceptions last season.

"He definitely has the tools to be a great cover corner for years to come," Ismail said. "You have to be patient against a guy like him. You can't be frustrated when he makes a play."

Sanders visits

"Prime Time" was in town.

Former cornerback Deion Sanders was at the Ravens' Owings Mills practice facility yesterday to conduct his first interview as a broadcaster for CBS Sports.

He interviewed middle linebacker Ray Lewis for a story on the rivalry between Lewis and Titans running back Eddie George.

Said Sanders of Lewis, who hails from Sanders' home state of Florida: "Ray brings so much to the table. All you have to do is sit down and eat."

Sanders, who wore a mustard-colored suit, also promised to be dressed to perfection for his appearance on the CBS pre-game show Sunday.

"I'll be consistent. I'll be clean," he said. "I got to wear suits that are color-friendly."

A familiar leg

If Titans kicker Joe Nedney looks familiar to Ravens fans, he should - he was a Raven two years ago.

Nedney, who was signed by Tennessee as a free agent after playing for the Carolina Panthers last season, joined the Ravens on Oct. 6, 1999, when he was signed off waivers. A month later, he was released, but not before the team tried to determine whether he could replace Matt Stover as the club's starting kicker.

"We thought he had a good, strong kickoff leg," said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "Things kind of worked out in a different way. He bounced around a bit and found a home in Tennessee."

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