In switch to guard, Rabach brings a center's attention

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Offensive lineman to get start tomorrow vs. Lions

Johnson feels payback

August 08, 2002|By Brent Jones and Mary Beth Kozak | Brent Jones and Mary Beth Kozak,SUN STAFF

Mentally, guard Casey Rabach had all the nuances of his position conquered as a rookie.

Rabach, the Ravens' 2001 third-round pick, spent last year as one of the backup centers, though he did not get into any regular-season games. But his practice time there has paved the way this season for a smoother transition to left guard, where he will play for the first time tomorrow night in the home preseason opener against the Detroit Lions.

"The year at center helped me out because the center is made to learn everything," Rabach said. "Playing at guard is almost like a weight off my shoulders because the mental part of playing guard is a lot less than center. When I go up to the line, I see things from a center's standpoint first, then from a guard's, and I think that helps me out a lot.

"When I moved to guard, I felt a lot more free. You have to be more of an athlete because of the wide techniques. But I like it, though. It's something that is challenging, but something I think I'm handling pretty decently."

With Edwin Mulitalo switching from left guard to right tackle, the Ravens believed they would have their five best linemen on the field by inserting Rabach into Mulitalo's old spot.

Rabach has made few mental errors in two weeks of practice, faring well against nose tackles Kelly Gregg and Maake Kemoeatu. But practice performances mean little.

"These games will be a real test, how he matches up against the big 300-pound guys on the other team's starting defense," said offensive line coach Jim Colletto.

Rabach played right guard his senior season at the University of Wisconsin.

"I'm getting more comfortable there," Rabach said. "It's been a good year since I've played guard, and I've never really been on the left side, so that was all new for me. The offense I got down pretty good. Now it's just technique and footwork, and that is what I hope to get done over these next couple of preseason games."

Getting back at Johnson

Receiver Ron Johnson took on Lamont Brightful, then took on nearly the entire starting defense.

Johnson knocked Brightful to the ground for the second straight day in practice, but this time he had to answer to the defense afterward for making a questionable block on the cornerback.

In a camp that has been relatively light in rookie practical jokes without such pranksters as Tony Siragusa and Brad Jackson around, veterans, led by Adalius Thomas, Anthony Mitchell and James Trapp, let loose yesterday, tying up Johnson's hands and legs and dumping him in the cold tub.

Rookies Shawn Byrdsong and Mike Collins also received the cold-tub treatment.

Kemoeatu to start

Kemoeatu, an undrafted rookie free agent, will start Friday in place of second-round draft pick Tony Weaver, who is sidelined with a sprained right ankle.

"I hope to prove worthy that I could be part of the team come Friday," Kemoeatu said, "and try to prove myself to the veterans and show them that I can run around and be part of the team."

The former Utah defensive standout is eager to play and hopes to continue to develop a future with the Ravens. Kemoeatu, at 6 feet 5, 312 pounds, is one of the biggest defensive linemen in camp and has excelled at clogging up the middle.

"To be in there playing next to Ray Lewis is like a dream," he said. "He's been a great leader out there. I look up to him. I see him running to the ball and I try to run to the ball, too."

New-look homecoming

Tomorrow's game will be the first at home since a Monday night win over the Minnesota Vikings in last year's regular-season finale.

It will mark the first time many fans will see this season's Ravens, who have transformed from a Super Bowl champion 19 months ago to a team expected to struggle this season. Ravens coach Brian Billick expects no expressions of dissatisfaction from what should be a sellout crowd.

"I'm amazed at the crowds we have [at training camp]," Billick said. "I've been out and about town throughout the off-season, and the enthusiasm is surprising to me. I think our fans, based on what [the fans at training camp] are doing and the way they are reacting, they are excited about coming out and see who these guys are and jumping on board. I think it is going to be a very energetic night."

End zone

The Ravens waived offensive tackle Lance Clelland. ... Billick said quarterback Chris Redman will see about 20-25 snaps tomorrow. Jeff Blake will play most of the second half. He also said running back Tellis Redmon will play the entire first half.

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