Ravens try to straighten jagged line

Getting offensive line back in sync is critical to season's success

Chemistry remains issue

Mulitalo to return Sunday

Searcy may be out for rest of year

Pro Football

October 26, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

There are times when offensive linemen must think like cornerbacks.

When a team racks up seven sacks and takes the quarterback out of the game early - as the Cleveland Browns' defense did in a win over the Ravens last Sunday - then the cornerbacks' credo of "forget it and move on" can help linemen.

"We have to think positive," said Ravens guard Edwin Mulitalo. "They say cornerbacks have short memories because they have to forget that last play. Well, that is the same thing [linemen] have to do. If you give up a sack, get up and go back and fight again, because it's going to be a long season and a long battle."

The question is: Which linemen will be in to fight for the final 10 games this season? Apparently, right tackle Leon Searcy may not be one of them.

Searcy had exploratory arthroscopic surgery on his left arm yesterday and will miss Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3) at PSINet Stadium. At worst, the Ravens (3-3) are prepared to be without Searcy for the rest of the season.

The team should have an idea today how long Searcy, who signed a six-year deal this off-season with a $3 million signing bonus, will be out. Searcy tore his triceps muscle during a scrimmage in the preseason and was expected to miss the first six games before his most recent setback.

"I'm not real optimistic based on the rehab he's done," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We're just going to have to wait and see. But I'm not a doctor."

With Searcy gone, the right tackle rotation of starter Sammy Williams and Erik Williams will continue. The right guards also likely will rotate Sunday, with Kipp Vickers returning to his old position behind starting guard Bennie Anderson.

Mulitalo, who missed the past two games with a left knee injury, will start at left guard Sunday.

"I'm about 85 percent right now," said Mulitalo, who was upgraded from questionable to probable. "I'm just going day by day. I think I'm ready."

The Ravens will face a familiar defensive line Sunday in the Jaguars' Renaldo Wynn, Gary Waker, Seth Payne and Tony Brackens, all primary starters since 1999.

That quartet is facing a Ravens team reeling after two losses, both of which saw quarterback Elvis Grbac get knocked out of the game.

Will this game hold more significance for a line in need of a strong showing? No more than normal, said left tackle Jonathan Ogden.

"Every week is important; it doesn't really matter who you are playing," he said. "If you don't establish your front five vs. their front four, you're not going to get a whole lot done. They definitely have a good front four, but we have to rise to it."

Ogden was supposed to team with Searcy to form one of the league's best tackle tandems. Instead, the Ravens are trying to get a functional right tackle by combining the Williamses.

The rotation is not ideal for continuity purposes, but both players have come to accept it.

"I've played on great offensive lines," said Erik Williams, who won three Super Bowls in his 10 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. "With guys being in there together, the more you know a guy next to you, the easier it is. I'm just working through it. I want to help this team any way I can. I basically have nothing to lose at this point."

For Sammy Williams, who is starting in the NFL for the first time, the rotation helps keep him from wearing down. Sammy Williams also played in NFL Europe with the Berlin Thunder this spring.

"You can't just discount he's played 10 games already, and say, `Suck it up. Be tough,' " Billick said. "That's not very smart. So that rotation, as much as you don't like to rotate linemen in that regard, in order to get through the season, it is something that we are going to have to stay with."

That is, unless somebody steps to the forefront or the weather changes.

"It's been all right so far, but you can't get used to one guy, because there have been different guys in there all the time," Sammy Williams said. "Once we get established what the line is going to be and who is going to be in there, we can get down with our calls, and expect for us to jell.

"Once it gets cold, I don't know how much that's going to work. I'm going to need to be in there a little more, because it's hard to come out, get cold and go back in there and be at the top of your game."

Mulitalo is hurting, Searcy is possibly gone for the season, the right side is on an indefinite rotation and the line is coming off its worst showing of the year. All the woes, though, can be eased with a win.

"If we go up there and dominate their defensive line, push them around and run the ball real well, that sets a precedent over everything. Everybody gains confidence off that," Mulitalo said. "If the O-line does well, the whole team is going to do well."

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

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