Demps shows bit of staying power


3rd string to co-starter, safety keeps impressing

August 19, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

With every passing day, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore Will Demps.

His coaches can swear to that, as they promoted the once long-shot third-string safety to co-starter.

Demps, who has an interception in each of the two preseason games, is now part of a three-man rotation with Anthony Mitchell and Ed Reed. Yesterday's full-contact practice was the first time Demps - alongside Reed - received extended playing time with the defensive starters. It was the crowning moment of an impressive camp by Demps, one in which he recorded the game-winning interception in the preseason opener against Detroit.

"We're just rotating them in," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "By practice, by drill, [secondary coach] Donnie [Henderson] mixes them in quite a bit. We are trying to get a good look at all three of them because two of them have to come out of the mix as starters."

With the Ravens investing a first-round pick in Reed, it looks like Demps' best chance at remaining with the first team could come at Mitchell's expense.

Mitchell, though, has been eyeing a starting role the past couple of seasons and might be hard to sit down. He is the most experienced of the safeties, is the secondary's vocal leader and is a stronger physical presence than Demps or Reed.

But it has been Demps who has developed a knack for making key interceptions, especially in practice.

"I just take every opportunity that I can," said Demps, who signed as an undrafted rookie out of San Diego State. "It doesn't matter if I was with the first, third or fourth team.

"I just have to be ready no matter what."

Reed likely will make the first start of his career Friday against the Philadelphia Eagles in place of Chad Williams.

"Ed is getting better," Nolan said. "Part of his thing is just getting in shape. The first couple of weeks, he just wasn't in good football shape. He certainly is getting closer and closer to the ball all the time."

Brown might return

Ravens officials have expressed interest in re-signing veteran linebacker Cornell Brown and may bring him back within the next couple of days.

The Ravens abruptly terminated his contract last September on the same day he was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The charges were later dropped.

The backup linebacker on the Ravens' Super Bowl team was out of football last season and returned to Virginia Tech, where he graduated in May. Going back to get his degree played a big factor in persuading the Ravens to consider him again.

Known primarily as a run-stopper, Brown likely would compete with Shannon Taylor to be starting strong-side linebacker.

It isn't just a snap

Ordinarily a rather mundane exercise, the Ravens' center-quarterback exchange has had its moments.

Backup center Casey Rabach sent a shotgun snap wide right of quarterback Chris Redman in the loss to the Jets to halt a drive late in the second quarter. In the preseason opener against Detroit, Jason Thomas, who switched from tackle to center, had two miscues, with the Ravens losing possession on one.

Sometimes it is worse in practice. Yesterday, there was a fumble when Redman was attempting to just spike the ball.

"It's a combination of centers needing to focus and the quarterbacks knowing which way the center is going," said Rabach, who is the starting left guard. "It's a whole bunch of things. The quarterbacks get a little edgy every once in a while. The center doesn't concentrate and wants to get going. It just comes down to focus and doing your job.

"That snap that got away from me Thursday night was a combination of wet hands, focus and just a mess-up. When you mess up, you mess up hard core."

End zone

Defensive back Shawn Byrdsong received extra tutoring after practice from James Trapp, the senior member of the secondary.

Byrdsong is battling Reggie Waddell to be backup to Trapp at nickel back.

"It's a learning process right now," Byrdsong said. "Trapp's been in the league, so I'm just trying to learn behind him. He's like a mentor to me. It's kind of like a position I played in college, but I just have more responsibility now." ...

Cornerback Gary Baxter is still favoring his sore hamstring. He was beaten on a 45-yard touchdown pass yesterday. ... Cornerback Alvin Porter missed his second day of practice to witness the birth of his child.

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