Williams saddles up, takes starter's reins

Ravens: Moe Williams won't be riding in on a white horse Sunday, but the team is hoping he can help carry the offense while filling in at starting running back.

November 28, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

To have a little fun with his coach, Moe Williams should enter this morning's practice riding a white horse.

The image would fit what the Ravens hope to get from Williams in Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts at PSINet Stadium - a savior for at least one day for what looks to be a running game headed for trouble.

Williams will be the Ravens' third starting running back this season after Jason Brookins broke a bone in his right foot during Sunday's win at Jacksonville, a potentially season-ending injury. Terry Allen, who replaced Jamal Lewis (knee surgery) to start the season but has missed the past two games with a broken hand, will remain out Sunday but could return against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 16, after the team's bye week.

That leaves Williams, Obafemi Ayanbadejo and the desperate hope held by some Ravens followers that a free agent can come in and help, namely former Minnesota Vikings back Robert Smith.

Ravens coach Brian Billick intimated on Monday that that would not happen, saying no one was going to come in "riding on a white horse," an obvious reference to Smith.

That is, unless Williams chooses to do so.

"One thing for sure is we're going to have our game plan, and I'm going to try and execute it to the best of my ability," Williams said.

Williams' recent play had elevated his role before the injury to Brookins. Williams is coming off his most productive game Sunday, rushing nine times for 31 yards and catching four passes for 47 yards.

The nine carries were one fewer than he had compiled all season before Sunday's game, as he was given the attempts previously reserved for Ayanbadejo.

"Earlier, I was dealing with injuries, and I think those things made me less effective," Ayanbadejo said. "That prompted the move to get Moe involved. Obviously, you can see Moe can play. People didn't know how well Moe can play, but Moe is a real good player. So it moved me back to more two-back stuff and limited me to third downs."

At 6 feet 1, 210 pounds, Williams, in his sixth year, provides more outside speed than Ayanbadejo or Brookins.

"He's a very authoritative runner, kind of a slashing runner," said Billick, who coached Williams in Minnesota as offensive coordinator from 1996 to 1998. "He's very good out of the backfield and an excellent pass protector. These are all things he brought to us when I was with the Vikings.

"He just really hasn't had the opportunity to exhibit that on a consistent basis behind Robert Smith and Leroy Hoard. I'm kind of excited for Moe, for him to have that opportunity to step up."

Playing primarily behind Smith and Hoard allowed Williams to start just one other game in his five years with the Vikings. For his second chance, which could produce as many as 20 carries considering the Ravens ran Brookins 30 times Sunday, Williams could not have picked a better team.

The Colts' defense is 28th in the league against the run, giving up an average of 133.1 yards a game. San Francisco 49ers running back Garrison Hearst rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns in just 12 carries Sunday.

Teams are scoring 29.8 points a game against the Colts, highest in the NFL. Williams, though, is not salivating at the chance.

"I'm not going to do that to myself," he said. "The level of excitement is playing in the NFL. I'm going to treat it like another game.

"In the NFL, you go through so many different things, from being released, from not being active. You just have to make the best of your opportunities."

Williams has 52 yards on 19 carries this season. His career highs are modest (19 carries for 43 yards on Nov. 2, 1997, against New England). Both could easily fall Sunday.

"I'm sure he's excited about the opportunity but doesn't want to get carried away," Billick said. "He knows we are relying on him a great deal, and I have a lot of confidence in him."

NOTES: Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams is expected to have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee as early as this morning. ... Brookins successfully had a screw inserted in the bone to stabilize his foot fracture Monday night. ... Verizon Wireless and Motorola have teamed up with the Ravens to help victims of domestic violence by asking fans to donate old wireless phones Sunday as part of the "Call to Protect" program. Representatives will be collecting phones at three locations: Ravens Walk, on the lower concourse near Gate A, and on the lower concourse between Gates C and D. Those bringing in phones will receive a $100 voucher toward a new phone. Donated phones will be refurbished and distributed to victims or sold, with the proceeds going to support the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. ... Dave Kahl, a senior linebacker at Calvert Hall, and Michelle Clarke, a senior setter on the Towson High volleyball team, are Ravens Champions of the Week.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Indianapolis Colts

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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