Purnell out, Zauner in, sources say

Special teams coach to change for Ravens

January 26, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' coaching shuffle will continue into next week.

According to league sources, they will hire Gary Zauner to replace special teams coach Russ Purnell.

The move has been delayed until early next week to allow Purnell the chance to latch on with another team. The Indianapolis Colts have requested permission to talk to Purnell, and the Minnesota Vikings have also expressed interest in him.

Ravens coach Brian Billick said yesterday that Purnell has not been fired and would not comment on staff issues until changes occur. But the move would be considered an upgrade to the staff, especially with Zauner's expertise in the kicking game.

Zauner, 51, was dismissed by the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 10 when the team determined that his estimated $150,000 contract was considered too expensive for a special teams coordinator. He has a long history with Billick, coaching together for five years at San Diego State and five years with the Vikings.

In his seven seasons with the Vikings, Zauner helped produce six NFL records and numerous team records. He has coached three kicking specialists (kickers Gary Anderson and Fuad Reveiz and punter Mitch Berger) to the Pro Bowl.

Purnell finished his third and most impressive season with the Ravens. Their special teams were ranked among the top five in seven categories, including second in average start after a kickoff return (31.2) and opponent field-goal percentage (.576).

It will be the second change to the coaching staff this off-season and only the third in Billick's three-year run as head coach.

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