McCrary: change in latitude, attitude

Ravens' 3-4 `D' means end must make his game, mind-set more like tackle

July 24, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens know they're going to have a problem with Michael McCrary.

Reporting to training camp tomorrow, McCrary is eight months removed from knee surgery and hasn't participated in a full practice since September. But the difficulty won't be getting the defensive end onto the field ... it will be keeping him off it.

The Ravens' only proven defensive lineman, McCrary is a workaholic who goes full speed every snap, every practice. Although he is physically cleared for every practice this camp, the Ravens are asking the 10-year veteran to pace himself.

"It's a dilemma because most veterans you go to and say we need to ease you through camp, they usually are very appreciative. With Michael, it's just the opposite," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "You'd have to lock him in his room.

"But Michael does have to recognize that he's at a different point of his career right now. We've got to help him through camp and recognize that the fabled Michael McCrary motor does need to have a bit of governor on it during training camp."

McCrary isn't sure he can change his snap-to-whistle mentality.

"I'm going to go as much as my body will let me," said Mc- Crary, who couldn't practice after last year's opener but still led the Ravens in sacks before a knee injury ended his season in Week 10.

"I'm a firm believer in practice. But I've got to learn to play smarter. That's a sign of being a veteran. It's just hard for me to do anything half-speed."

The Ravens will gradually bring him along and start to give him limited playing time in the second game of the preseason. But saving McCrary's legs won't stop in training camp.

The Ravens are planning to hold him out of some first- and second-down situations throughout the regular season, reducing his number of snaps this season by 300. It's a long-term perspective that should maximize his talents as a pass rusher this season as well as extend his career.

"In terms of getting the quality of snaps, I don't know if it's in Michael's best interest to have him take 950 to 1,000 snaps," Billick said. "I think we'll get a more productive and minimize his injuries and keep him fresher for a key time in a game will be closer to the 700-snap level."

The other change for McCrary is adjusting to a 3-4 defense, where defensive ends play more inside like a defensive tackle. With McCrary weighing about 250 pounds, many observers don't think he can hold up in that scheme.

"I'm saying that myself," Mc- Crary said. "But I look forward to the challenge. That's where the coaches want me to play.

"Before I played with leverage. Now, I've got to use power. I'm battling a 300-pounder every snap. I guess I'm always going to have to be angry and have an attitude."

The Ravens, however, only plan to use a pure 3-4 defense 30 percent of the time. Ideally, they want to keep McCrary coming off the outside edge, where he plays his best.

But wherever they play him, the Ravens know he'll be running in high gear.

"If Michael's not the best right end, he's one of the best," defensive line coach Rex Ryan said. "He just can't wait to play regardless. People are saying that he'll struggle being a 3-4 end. The way Michael is, he'll prove people wrong. That's going to motivate him as well. The thing with Michael is he thinks he is the best and he goes out to prove it each year."

NOTES: The Ravens have reached agreements in principle with five more draft picks (all three-year deals): fourth-round punter Dave Zastudil (a total of $1.2 million, including a signing bonus just above $300,000), fifth-round tight end Terry Jones ($1.01 million with $110,500 bonus), sixth-round return specialist Lamont Brightful ($963,000 with a $58,000 bonus), sixth-round running back Chester Taylor ($947,750 with a $43,850 bonus) and sixth-round safety Chad Williams ($948,000 with a $43,000 bonus). That reduces the number of unsigned draft picks to four with one day left before players report to training camp. ... Ravens owner Art Modell will remain at Johns Hopkins Hospital for the next couple of days for treatment and rest after suffering a mild stroke Saturday. He is hoping to attend the start of training camp Friday and said, "Tell Brian [Billick] I'll be ready for gassers by the weekend." ... The Ravens cut undrafted rookie linebacker Obiajulu Arah, reducing their roster to 76 players. They worked out about 20 players yesterday, including center Lance Clelland, a McDonogh School graduate who was released by the New York Jets last month. Clelland has a good shot to be invited to camp. ... Single-game tickets for the Ravens' home games go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. and can be purchased at the Ravens Stadium box office, at Ticketmaster outlets or by calling 410-481-7328.

At a glance

What: Ravens training camp

Where: McDaniel College, Westminster

When: Friday to Aug. 21. This Friday's and Saturday's practices are non-contact; first full-contact practice is Monday.

Directions and parking: From Baltimore, take Interstate 695 (Baltimore Beltway) to Exit 19 onto I-795 North (Northwest Expressway), continue to its completion. Follow signs to Westminster via Route 140 West to Route 31 South; at blinking traffic light, turn left (Route 31); at first traffic light, turn left onto Main Street. Proceed up the hill; the entrance to Ravens visitor parking is on the left. Follow the drive around Bair Stadium and look for the signs.

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