BC's Green sure would look good in purple

April 20, 2002|By MIKE PRESTON

AS THE RAVENS were about to close up shop for the last time yesterday in preparation for this weekend's NFL draft, word was being tossed around the rumor mill that Boston College running back William Green might slip down to the Ravens in the 24th slot of the first round.

Maybe the football gods are smiling down upon the Ravens for the first time this off-season. Finally.

Of course, the Ravens weren't going to reveal their intentions, but if Green falls through today, they should select him. The Ravens might have more pressing needs on the interior defensive line, at safety and possibly wide receiver, but turning away a player of Green's ability who touches the ball often would be a huge mistake.

There are concerns about two team suspensions at Boston College, and about Green as a pass catcher, but nothing substantial enough that the Ravens should pass on him.

If the Ravens select Green, then it would be their second straight gift in the draft. The other was tight end Todd Heap lasting to the 31st pick of last year's draft and falling to the Ravens. There would be questions surrounding the selection of Green. What about Jamal Lewis? What about replacing defensive tackles Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams and safeties Rod Woodson and Corey Harris? Doesn't this team need a big-time, impact receiver?

Most of those questions can be answered in the later rounds of the draft, or via the second round of free agency beginning June 1. But the Ravens might be able to fill the running back need now, and there aren't many solid options after Michigan State running back T.J. Duckett and Green.

"This draft is not as deep as in years past," said Ravens coach Brian Billick about the college running backs. "There doesn't appear to be the top guy that everyone is clamoring for. But there are some intriguing prospects. Duckett is a good, physical, big, strong back. Green is an excellent back who always seems to get positive yards. Everyone else has potential, but all have little holes. It's still unlikely the top two might get to us."

Maybe it will just fall into place. It would be the ideal situation because no one knows how Lewis will rebound from major reconstructive knee surgery last October. Most injuries of that nature take two years to completely heal.

If the Ravens don't draft a Green or a Duckett, then there is always the chance they could end up like last season if Lewis can't perform up to standards.

Green doesn't have a great 40 time (4.58), but he runs fast on game days. He led the Big East in rushing last season with 1,559 yards, averaging 5.9 yards a carry. He can run inside or outside, but he is extremely effective in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

The plusses outweigh the minuses. Green has a 42-inch vertical leap and bench-pressed 225 pounds 27 times during testing for scouts.

But teams have backed off lately, because of two suspensions. An unspecified violation of team rules caused him to miss a game against Arizona State in the Aloha Bowl when Green was a sophomore, and disciplinary action from his coach forced him to miss the Miami game last season.

"When you interview these kids, the first thing you need to remember is that you're not always the judge and jury," said Billick. "It's not for me or anybody else to figure out what went wrong, or what is morally right. When you have a kid who has had some difficulty, you have to determine if this is a bad kid, someone you don't care to have hang around your football team, or is this a young man that has made a mistake like so many others have. Maybe you can count on maturity, and what's at stake for them, to grow up. I think [Green] probably falls into that latter category.

"He is a very affable young man," Billick continued. "He has a street sense about him, but there is a wide-eyed innocence where you get the sense that he got caught around something, and just didn't use good judgment, instead of being a bad kid. If you take all the players off the board who have some kind of nick on them, then the draft would last only a half day."

The Ravens probably have taken a look at another character issue. Green's father, Bobby, a heroin addict, died of AIDS in June 1992 at the age of 36. His mother, Mabel, died 16 months later of the same disease.

To get this far, the kid had to have some perseverance.

The Ravens need another runner. You can always find a steady defensive lineman in free agency, and second-year defensive back Gary Baxter gives the team some versatility because he can play both cornerback and safety. But if Green slips, the Ravens should take him.

"The rumors are out there, about players potentially slipping," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' senior vice president of football operations. "[Miami's] Bryant McKinnie is starting to slip, Green is slipping, Duckett can slip. [Tennessee's] Donte Stallworth is down past 15 right now. That's because we are all lying. Nobody is telling anybody what they are doing."

Hopefully, that's not the case. Green would be a nice fit in a purple uniform next season.

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