Sharpe gets back to business after record reception


With work to be done, tight end, Newsome take it all in stride

Browns 27, Ravens 17

November 19, 2001|By Brent Jones and Kevin Van Valkenburg | Brent Jones and Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Tight end Shannon Sharpe spent about 30 seconds discussing his new record and five minutes dissecting what went wrong with the Ravens yesterday.

After two games of teasing - last Monday against Tennessee and two weeks ago against Pittsburgh - Sharpe finally broke Ozzie Newsome's NFL record for catches by a tight end in yesterday's 27-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns at PSINet Stadium.

Sharpe entered the game tied at 662 career catches with Newsome and moved past him on the Ravens' first possession.

"I said it all along: No individual goal supersedes a win," Sharpe said. "I'm a firm believer in that. A lot of people said why don't you ask [Ravens coach] Brian Billick to let me break the record Monday night.

"That would have been so selfish for me to ask Brian to let me catch a football instead of trying to win a football game."

Sharpe came close to making the record-breaker a touchdown, taking a pass from Elvis Grbac 29 yards to the Browns' 13 before safety Percy Ellsworth caught up to him and saved the score.

He then jogged over to Newsome and handed him the ball, and hugged Billick and linebacker Ray Lewis before heading back to the field.

He finished with seven catches for 78 yards.

"Yeah I'm pleased with the record," Sharpe said. "My family was here. For the most part, everybody that I wanted to be here with the exception of my grandmother and my brother, who couldn't make it, was here. But you can't do what we did and win."

Injury ends Starks' day

Ravens cornerback Duane Starks was hoping to prove that being beaten for two long touchdown passes in a 24-24 loss to Cleveland last month was just a fluke, but he had little chance to do it because of a first-quarter groin injury.

Starks said he suffered the injury while trying to make a sharp cut on the Browns' opening drive. Rookie Alvin Porter replaced him while Starks went to the locker room to get treatment. Starks returned briefly in the second quarter, but couldn't go full speed and took himself out.

"I didn't hear a pop or anything, so I don't think it's that serious," Starks said.

Ups, downs for Porter

Starks' injury was a rare opportunity for - and put pressure on - Porter, who signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State in the off-season.

Porter, who was matched up with Browns wide-out Kevin Johnson much of the afternoon, had something of a shaky start. In the second quarter, he was flagged twice in a span of three plays, being called for defensive holding and pass interference.

But he rebounded, making a big play at the start of a fourth quarter with the Ravens trailing 20-17. He drifted back in zone coverage and intercepted a pass by Tim Couch intended for Johnson at the Ravens' 31-yard line. It was Porter's first career interception.

"I thought it went OK," Porter said. "Obviously, I think I could have played better. ... I was ready. I just tried to hang tough and prove that I can play in this league."

Thomas does his part

Defensive end Adalius Thomas admitted the feeling was bittersweet, but the second-year reserve clearly had his best game as a pro in the loss.

Thomas, who saw extended action because starter Rob Burnett has a calf injury, made four tackles and had two pass deflections, one of which resulted in an interception by Michael McCrary.

The Ravens got three points out of the turnover and pulled within 20-17 thanks to a 42-yard Matt Stover field goal.

"It felt good to make a play that helped us get back in the game," Thomas said. "I was just trying to be a ballplayer out there, to play without any hesitation."

Thomas did his share of harassing Couch during a wild third quarter, when the only pass the quarterback completed was to himself.

Facing third-and-10 from the Browns' 15, Couch tried to throw over the middle out of the shotgun, but the ball was batted by Thomas right back to Couch. Not done there, Thomas tackled Couch for a 10-yard loss.

Heap gets on board

Ravens tight end Todd Heap also experienced highs and lows. In the first quarter, he got tangled up at the line of scrimmage and was late dragging across the back of the end zone on a fourth-and-one play at the goal line, and Grbac threw the ball out of bounds under pressure.

But the rookie No. 1 draft pick - who is still not fully recovered from an ankle injury he suffered in week 2 against Cincinnati - scored his first NFL touchdown in the third quarter on a 24-yard pass from Grbac.

"I hate to lose, so I'd rather have scored my first touchdown on a game-winning play or something, but it was still exciting," said Heap. "I just wanted to get back and feel like part of the offense again."

Heap's excitement over his score was also tempered by a thumb injury late in the game. Team officials said Heap would undergo X-rays and will be re-evaluated over the next few days.

Making contributions

With the offense turning the ball over five times, the Ravens had to spend plenty of time on defense, which opened up some playing time for several reserves.

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