Raven casts aside doubts

Broken hand and all, Burnett vows to help stop Jaguars

End won't make excuses

Cast is hindrance, but `something you've got to work through'

October 24, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Through the course of a brief conversation, Ravens defensive end Rob Burnett made two points abundantly clear:

The injuries are bothersome.

They are not being used as an excuse.

Burnett played Sunday's 24-14 loss at Cleveland with a cast on his broken left hand suffered the week before at Green Bay. This injury comes in the wake of calf and groin problems that had hindered the 12-year veteran since the beginning of training camp.

The cast severely limits Burnett's ability to gain leverage on offensive linemen through his sheer power. Burnett finished with two tackles and one pass defensed against the Browns, having trouble early fighting off blocks he normally sheds.

"Defensive line is mostly hands and feet," Burnett said. "As a player, [the injury] is tough. But it's something that you've got to work through, and something that I'm going to work through. I'm not going to try to get out of anything. It's part of life, part of this game. Things happen, people get hurt, and fortunately this is something I can function with.

"It hinders me from delivering a blow, being able to grab, things you do normally as a defensive end. But I'm not complaining, and I'm not making any excuses."

The good news for Burnett is that he will likely be able to better grasp opponents in Sunday's game against Jacksonville at PSINet Stadium. Burnett is scheduled to have a section of the cast cut off, which may allow him to use his fingers.

But he still will have to have part of the hand immobilized until the bone heals.

"He'll get more and more comfortable with that cast," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "[Sunday] he got better and better, getting more comfortable. But he couldn't do all the things he normally does. I imagine each week he'll get more comfortable with it."

Burnett, 34, is coming off what was statistically his best year. He finished with career highs in tackles (97) and sacks (10.5), while also recovering a team-high five fumbles.

Burnett's momentum from last year was hampered early in training camp when a groin injury forced him out of a number of practices and still bothered him heading into the season opener against Chicago. Then came the strained calf against Tennessee that limited him to just 16 plays in a little over a quarter's worth of action.

While he spent last season virtually injury-free, Burnett has had some problems in the past, including a torn anterior cruciate ligament five years ago.

"I didn't have a lot of that [injury] stuff to deal with last year, but I've had it in previous years," said Burnett, who is seventh on the Ravens with 22 tackles and has no sacks. "It's not an excuse. People get hurt, and you have to work through it.

"This is a game where you have to know the difference between pain and injury. If you are in pain and things are slowing you down, that is not enough to keep you out. You've got to be in there and fight through it, even though you may not be as effective as you would be if you were 100 percent healthy.

"My calf is good, my groin is good, my legs are finally feeling good. My hand is broken, but I'm going to keep plugging away."

With the usually stingy Ravens defense having allowed a total of 55 points the past two weeks, the coaches plan on letting Burnett fight through this latest setback.

"To his credit, a lot of guys wouldn't be out there playing," defensive line coach Rex Ryan said. "But he's out there working hard for the good of the team, playing as hard as he could possibly play. This latest injury with the broken hand is really tough on Rob because he's a guy that's played 12 years in the league and is used to doing things a certain way using his hands. He's probably the best we have at using his hands to fight off blockers. Now he's got to almost punch with one hand. But he'll find a way."

Adalius Thomas is Burnett's backup but, in just his second season, is short on experience. That does not bode well on a line whose youngest starter (Sam Adams) is in his eighth season.

That leaves a less-than-healthy Burnett, who Ryan said is still playing effectively.

"The numbers don't tell the whole story," Ryan said. "Last year, he had 10 1/2 sacks and people wanted to ignore that. Well, ignore the fact he doesn't have those numbers right now. He's a great player, no doubt, and a guy we feel we have to have out there. This whole team counts on him being out there."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars

Site: PSINet Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 7 1/2

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