Linebacker Harris signs for 1 year


Veteran adds to depth

Baxter injures hamstring

NFL notes

Pro Football

August 06, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Looking to bolster a linebacker corps that will feature two first-time starters, the Ravens signed eight-year veteran Bernardo Harris yesterday to a one-year, $750,000 contract.

Because of Harris' experience, only $450,000 will count against the salary cap.

Harris spent the past seven years with the Green Bay Packers, where he was a salary cap cut in February. Harris led Green Bay in tackles four of the past five seasons.

"My thing is I'm just going to come in here and try and compete and help this team win," Harris said. "I've had success in Green Bay. But now I can come somewhere else and continue to play football."

Harris worked out in Minnesota and was in talks with Seattle before deciding on the Ravens shortly after the team's morning practice. He will likely be the top backup to both Edgerton Hartwell and Ray Lewis, but there is a chance Harris could push for Hartwell's job.

"Ozzie [senior vice president Ozzie Newsome] promised me that the best 11 will start," said Harris' agent, Steve Weinberg. "If [Harris] can prove that, then he will be in there. All he is looking for is the opportunity."

Harris, 30, who came into the league an undrafted free agent, said he was drawn to the Ravens because of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's 3-4 scheme. He should be at practice today.

"It is intriguing because I like the 3-4 defense," Harris said.

"This is a total different experience for me. I'm used to being in camp from Day 1. Being in Green Bay, the last five years, I know I was the starter and it was my job. Now, I'm coming in here not knowing what exactly my chances are or the opportunity I'm going to be given. I'm going to let things take care of themselves.

"But I want to play. I'm used to playing. I want to do that but I'm not against doing anything to help the team win. I know I may have to come in here and play a different role, play the special teams role."

Harris' best season came in 1997 when he recorded a career-high 86 tackles, a sack and an interception. He played in every game last year and finished with 69 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and two interceptions.

Harris was due to make $875,000 with a $1 million roster bonus with the Packers. He signed a three-year extension with a $1.3 million signing bonus a year ago, but the team reportedly felt he had lost a step last season.

The Ravens will likely move top reserve Bart Scott to the outside to make room for Harris.

"He'll give us another veteran presence in there with Ray," linebackers coach Mike Smith said. "Hopefully, he'll fit in pretty quickly with the guys and have an impact.

"He's a very physical player, a run player. We're looking at him in our base [defense]."

Baxter sits out with strain

Cornerback Gary Baxter missed the second half of practice yesterday with a strained hamstring.

Baxter was replaced by a combination of James Trapp and Alvin Porter. He said he is not sure when he will return to practice but expects it could be this week.

"It's nothing major," Baxter said. "I'm just being cautious. You don't want to be stupid right now. I told them I felt something, and [the trainers] were like, chill out."

Not flowing for Brooks

Tackle Ethan Brooks rated his first practice with the Ravens as disappointing.

"Things could have gone better, but it feels good to be out there trying to soak in the offense so I can be comfortable in the game," Brooks said. "But I was offsides and late off the ball. Things like that just [ticked] me off."

Brooks, in his fifth session, signed a two-year contract Saturday. He is projected to be the top reserve at both tackle spots.

Jones getting extra work

Brooks was not the only player lamenting his practice performance.

"[Yesterday] was probably my worst day," tight end Terry Jones said. "I just have to be able to step back from it, learn from my mistakes and get ready for the rest of training camp.

Jones, who dropped what would have been a 20-yard reception, has seen more snaps with the starters and second-string players than originally anticipated because of a nagging triceps injury to Todd Heap. The increased workload has Jones, the Ravens' fifth-round pick, slightly ahead of the curve.

"The system is starting to come easier to me," Jones said. "I can almost stop thinking as much and just go out there and start playing."

End zone

The Ravens waived linebacker Casey Tisdale and safety Chonn Lacey. Running back Chester Taylor (leg) will likely not play in Friday's game. ... Running back Jamal Lewis made an impressive one-handed catch during practice, then made a cut downfield... Former Ravens cornerback Robert Bailey will be one of the sideline reporters for the Detroit Lions local television broadcast. Bailey was on the 2000 Super Bowl team.

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