Kight signed to boost kickoff coverage unit

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Ex-Colts kicker takes Searcy's roster spot, will handle kickoff duty

Pro Football

October 27, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Leon Searcy's nagging health problems added intrigue to the Ravens' offensive line and opened a spot on the roster for kicker Danny Kight, who is supposed to shore up the kickoff coverage team, another weak spot for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Matt Stover can add to his NFL record of 32 straight games with a field goal tomorrow at PSINet Stadium against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the All-Pro kicker has a strained quadriceps muscle that has meant shorter kickoffs and good field position for the opposition.

Enter Kight, who handled the kickoff duties for the Indianapolis Colts for much of 1999 and all of last season, when he had 13 touchbacks in 85 tries. Thirty-nine of Kight's 85 kickoffs last year reached the end zone, the second-best ratio in the NFL.

By comparison, Stover had more tackles (two) than touchbacks in the Ravens' first six games. Only one drive by an opponent has started inside its 20-yard line, and the opposition's average starting position after a kickoff has been just inside the 31. Only the New York Giants have had a less-effective kickoff coverage unit.

"It's a luxury," coach Brian Billick said of signing Kight. "Matt's one of the best kickers in the league, but if we can get a little strength on kickoff, that can help. If teams have to come out from the 20, that's two or three kickoff coverages that we don't have to run."

Kight, 30, played soccer and kicked for the football team at Druid Hills High in Atlanta, but limited his college athletics to marking back for the soccer team at Division II Augusta State in Georgia. He joined an Augusta semi-pro football team in 1996, and a 63-yard field goal led to a tryout with the San Diego Chargers.

Waived by the Colts in August, Kight had tryouts with the Chicago Bears and Giants. He kicked some field goals out of Kyle Richardson holds during a three-man tryout Thursday. Kight said he's ready for any longer attempts that might be out of Stover's current range, but his primary focus is helping the Ravens' kickoff coverage.

"When opportunity comes knocking, I'm going to take advantage of it," Kight said. "I hope to contribute on kickoffs, hopefully make them a little bit deeper, a little bit higher."

No Boselli for McCrary

With All-Pro left tackle Tony Boselli mending from shoulder surgery and out for the season, the Jaguars won't be the same challenge that they have been for defensive end Michael McCrary.

"When I think of Jacksonville, I think of Boselli," said McCrary, who has two career sacks against the Jaguars. "It will definitely be a different type of game than I'm used to playing against Jacksonville. Somebody like Boselli forces me to bring out my best. It's going to be a battle, but it's definitely going to be different not playing against Boselli."

Todd Fordham is Boselli's replacement.

Ailing offense

Quarterback Elvis Grbac (ribs), team rushing leading Terry Allen (ankle) and tight end Shannon Sharpe, the Ravens' leading receiver, remained questionable on the injury report. Grbac and Allen did not practice yesterday, and Billick said that Grbac and Sharpe will be game-day decisions.

Tight end Todd Heap (ankle) also remained questionable. McCrary (knee), defensive tackle Sam Adams (knee), guard Edwin Mulitalo (knee) and Stover (leg) were listed as probable.

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