Raven again seizes chance

Mitchell welcomes opportunity to play in nickel package

Adelphia holds fond memory

Special teams player positioning himself to make an impact

November 07, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Whether it's filling in on the nickel package or catching a deflected kick, Anthony Mitchell is known for seizing an opportunity and running with it.

Another chance may be had on Monday night at a venue quite familiar with the Ravens' reserve safety.

With James Trapp questionable with a groin injury, Mitchell will likely move into the Ravens' nickel package - a pass defense using five defensive backs - which gives him another opening to recapture his magical touch. In his last visit to Tennessee's Adelphia Coliseum, Mitchell scored the go-ahead touchdown by returning a blocked Titans field-goal try 90 yards, propelling the Ravens to the AFC championship game.

"The thing that Anthony has demonstrated is every time he gets an opportunity, he's risen to that occasion," Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "[Defensive back coaches] Donnie [Henderson] and Steve [Shafer] both feel that the more he plays, the better he gets. He needs to play in order to improve. He's a guy who has really taken supreme advantage of those opportunities."

Mitchell will walk into Adelphia with a smile on his face and his greatest NFL memory tucked not too far in the back of his mind.

It was only 10 months ago when Mitchell watched Al Del Greco's 37-yard field-goal attempt get blocked by Keith Washington and hang in the air. Mitchell caught it at the Ravens' 10-yard line, sprinted to his right, then ran up the sideline virtually untouched to break a 10-10 tie early in the fourth quarter.

The idea of an encore is fueling Mitchell this week.

"I want to see the reaction of the crowd considering it was a back-breaker for them last year," said Mitchell, 26, who is in his second year in the NFL. "So when I make a play this year, let's see how they react. There's no telling what's going to happen. But I'm going to work hard this week for me to put myself in a position to make a play."

This time, making a play could come on defense rather than special teams.

When Trapp went down last Sunday, Mitchell entered the game at strong safety during passing situations, with Corey Harris moving from that spot to nickel back. That unit could be used for large portions of the game because the Titans will probably rely more on quarterback Steve McNair than running back Eddie George, who is slowed by knee, thigh and ankle injuries.

Although Mitchell has played only three games at strong safety (including twice during last season's playoffs), the Ravens are comfortable playing him there. So comfortable that the Ravens started Mitchell throughout the entire preseason when Harris was out of town on a family emergency.

Since Harris returned to his starting job, Mitchell has been eager to get back to playing on defense.

"I'm more than ready," Mitchell said. "I've just got to calm down a little bit. I tend to go in there and be all hype."

A converted outside linebacker from Tuskegee University, Mitchell may not have the same experience as a 10-year veteran like Harris but shares a similar mentality.

"One thing about me and Corey, we both are going for the hit before we go for the pick," Mitchell said. "I take it as that you've got to make them fear you first before you go for a pick. Once you get that hard-hitting title behind your name, you can go for the picks."

But cracking the defensive lineup won't shift his focus from special teams. Mitchell is fourth on the Ravens with six tackles on special teams.

And when going against the Titans, special teams becomes a matter of pride. While Tennessee still holds on to the "Home Run Throwback" - its trick kickoff run from two years ago- Mitchell remembers a certain runback from last year.

"Their big thing is beating people on special teams and hoping their special teams give them momentum," Mitchell said. "We're going to shut that out. We're not even thinking about that. We're trying the same thing. It's going to be who wants it the most."

For Mitchell, desire may not outweigh good fortune when returning to Adelphia.

"Something good might happen good again," Mitchell said.

"Some people just got that kind of luck. Every time you go to this one particular spot, something good always happens to you."

NOTES: The Ravens' Team Ministry held a Christian outreach service Monday night and attracted 1,100 youths from Baltimore city churches. Linebacker Peter Boulware, receiver Qadry Ismail, kicker Matt Stover and cornerback James Trapp all spoke at the event. ... Damond Malloy, a football player from Pikesville, and Star Tazwell, a girls soccer player from Western, were selected as the Ravens Champions, a weekly award recognizing the area's high school athletes. The Ravens' High School Coach of the Week was Archbishop Curley's Sean Murphy.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Tennessee Titans

Site: Adelphia Coliseum, Nashville, Tenn.

When: Monday, 9 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 2, 7/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 1 1/2

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