Long snapper Dale Hellestrae estimated it would take a couple of days for the timing to come between himself and punter Kyle Richardson.
Judging by last night, that timeline was off.
Hellestrae rolled one snap back, sailed another to the right that Richardson handled (before shanking a punt) and sent another one low that Richardson could not handle in the Ravens' 19-3 win over the Minnesota Vikings at PSINet Stadium last night.
"Obviously it was a struggle at the beginning," Hellestrae said. "I made it more of a struggle than it needed to be."
Hellestrae, a 17-year veteran, had been out of football until last week when the Ravens signed him to replace Joe Maese, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
His first work came Thursday with Richardson, who also holds on field-goal attempts, giving him just three days to practice for last night's game.
The rust showed with the biggest struggle on a punt attempt from the Ravens' 21-yard line. Hellestrae's snap was so low that Richardson could not control it. He bobbled the ball a couple of times, before losing it all together. Richardson did recover the fumble, and the mistake led to no points from Minnesota after quarterback Spergon Wynn threw an interception to Chris McAlister on the next play.
Hellestrae took responsibility for the errors.
"There really is no replacement for actual game action," Hellestrae said. "You can practice and snap and do whatever you want, but until you actually get in the game, you don't know. I struggled a little bit in the first half, but seemed to get it a little bit better in the second half."
Fast finish for Boulware
Linebacker-turned-defensive end Peter Boulware recorded his 15th sack of the season in a four-sack performance last night. He will finish tops in the AFC in sacks for the first time in his career.
The four sacks ties a team record by Michael McCrary on Nov. 8, 1998 against the Oakland Raiders.
"It was special," Boulware said. "I always wanted to get three sacks in a game, and I got four today. We played great defense and we got in the playoffs, so that is special."
Jamie Sharper got the game's only touchdown with 1:37 left, when he scooped up a fumble and rambled 8 yards to ice the victory. It was the first time the fifth-year pro out of Virginia had gotten to the end zone since he was playing for Hermitage High in Richmond.
"I thought I would get one off an interception before this, but I'll take it any way it comes," Sharper said.
The Ravens' offense didn't produce a touchdown, but it also didn't commit any turnovers, as Elvis Grbac attempted 27 passes without an interception. His 10 completions went for 160 yards, and the ground game led the way with 212 yards.
"That was a good showing for our offensive line and the guys in the backfield," said Grbac, who talked about Terry Allen's 133-yard showing. "[Allen] said put it on me. Minnesota is not a real good tackling team, so we went after them."
Minnesota receiver Cris Carter, who will become an unrestricted free agent after the season, caused a stir in the Ravens' locker room this week.
In a conference call with Ravens media, Carter said, "Baltimore has a lot of things I'd be looking for: a great veteran team with a chance to win a Super Bowl and an offense where I'd fit in and get an opportunity to use my talents."
Some Ravens players, none of whom would comment publicly, indicated that Carter would not be welcomed here. According to the players, Carter's overboard competitiveness and outspoken nature can create friction within a team.
It won't be Brown
In his first public comments since Friday, Vikings owner Red McCombs put to rest any speculation about hiring Texas coach Mack Brown to replace Dennis Green, and said he doesn't expect to hire a new coach in the next few days.
McCombs said he and Brown speak often, mostly about football, but added, "He is not a candidate, never has been, and won't be."
He described the pool of candidates as "wide-open," indicating he would consider a college coach or an NFL assistant who has never been a coordinator.
McCombs said interim coach Mike Tice will be a part of that process, and he'll continue to serve in that role until a decision has been made.
Carter said Tice deserves a shot at the job.
"This team went from a transition to rebuilding, but the guys rallied around him," Carter said. "The energy he displayed in the locker room, the rapport he has with the players. He paid his dues. I think that speaks a lot about him."
Ready for some football
Before last night, Baltimore had not had a team showcased on Monday night since Nov. 6, 1978, when the Colts beat the Washington Redskins, 21-17, at Memorial Stadium. The city, which has played host to five Monday night games, was the site of the second Monday night game, in 1970.
"It's a special event," Ravens owner Art Modell said. "There's an aura around Monday Night Football. It's another milestone that shows we're back."