Mulitalo to miss game vs. Browns

Guard out 7-10 days

Vickers will get start

October 19, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

This would have been Edwin Mulitalo's type of game.

The Cleveland Browns struggle against the run, and Mulitalo especially likes to run-block, but unfortunately for the Ravens' third-year guard, he will have to watch.

Mulitalo had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee yesterday and is expected to miss seven to 10 days. There was a slight fear the injury would be worse, so coach Brian Billick felt the Ravens (3-2) caught a break, with Mulitalo expected to miss only Sunday's game at Cleveland (3-2).

"It was very good news," Billick said. "They went in, and the knee is totally fine. He's got gout in the knee. Sounds like we're going to eat a whole lot less fatty foods now.

"That was great news - they went in and found no ligament, cartilage [damage]. That pretty much ensures he'll be back for Jacksonville [Oct. 28]."

Kipp Vickers will fill in on the left side for Mulitalo. Vickers played in Mulitalo's place in Sunday's 31-23 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the first game Mulitalo missed since he became a starter midway through the 1999 season. It was Vickers' first extensive action at left guard after splitting time with Bennie Anderson on the other side through much of the year.

"We did OK last week, running for 150-some odd yards," Billick said. "Our strength has been our seventh, eighth, ninth [linemen]. Their playing time is going to benefit us down the road. Kipp played very well last week, so I can't say enough about him. Being moved around, people don't appreciate just how hard it is, not only to move from one side to the other, but from inside to outside."

Vickers is part of an offensive line that could easily pose problems for a struggling Browns defensive front four.

Cleveland already will likely be without its former No. 1 overall pick, defensive end Courtney Brown (knee), and may be without defensive end Keith McKenzie, who is suffering from an abdominal strain. Brown has not played this season, leaving much of the burden on this year's No. 1 pick, defensive tackle Gerard Warren, who has 19 tackles and a sack.

Cleveland was run over by the Cincinnati Bengals' Corey Dillion (140 yards) in a 24-14 loss Sunday, a week after giving up 102 yards to San Diego Chargers rookie LaDainian Tomlinson. The Bengals rushed for 199 yards overall against Cleveland, leading Browns safety Percy Ellsworth to rip into his team after the game, saying "if we don't get it corrected, we're going to get killed every week."

Enter Ravens running back Terry Allen, who rushed for 75 yards on 18 carries against the Packers. After getting off to a rough start, Allen is eighth in the AFC with 346 yards.

"[The Ravens] are knocking people off the ball, having success, and that is a concern of ours because we did not stop the run last week," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "And in this league, that's got to be a major priority with every team. You can't let the other team control the down and distance, the time of possession. So we've got to play better. Schematically, we didn't play our defense very well last week, and that is a beginning point for this week."

Cleveland is 20th against the run in the NFL, while the Ravens are 13th in rushing. A positive statistic for the Ravens, Allen is third in the NFL in fourth-quarter rushing yards with 128, behind Tomlinson's 143 and New Orleans' Ricky Williams with 142.

If the Ravens dominate on the ground Sunday, then things will be no different than they were last year between the two teams. Ravens backs Jamal Lewis and Priest Holmes combined for 168 yards in the first game and 234 yards in the second. The Ravens won both games.

Are Allen and backup Jason Brookins looking to put up such lofty numbers?

"We've got to go in and be physical and let the chips fall where they may," Allen said. "I expect them to come in and play well against the run. They are going to come in and try to stop it, and we've got to go out and be physical. I think if we can be physical and dominate up front, we'll be all right."

The game plan could feature a more grinding approach, especially on the heels of quarterback Elvis Grbac's concussion sustained against the Packers. The Browns are also strong against the pass (fourth in the league), and they put good pressure on quarterbacks. Linebacker Jamir Miller is tied for second with the Ravens' Michael McCrary in the AFC with five sacks.

"[The Browns] are the eighth-rated defense, so obviously they are playing very well. We expect a very physical battle from their front seven," Billick said.

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