With basics down, punter Zastudil ready to hit stride

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Focus is yards, hang time now that he's up to speed

Pro Football

August 20, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Comfortable with punter Dave Zastudil's progress, the Ravens are turning him loose.

Zastudil averaged 50.3 yards on three kicks in the Ravens' loss to the New York Jets Thursday. The first couple of weeks of camp, the Ravens were primarily concerned with Zastudil just getting the ball off. He has since mastered that, so now the focus is on distance and hang time.

"He's getting there," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "[Special teams coordinator] Gary [Zauner] really stressed getting the ball off early, so he'd been focusing on that. So early in camp, he wasn't booming them the way we've seen him do because he was working with his fundamentals of getting the ball off quick. Now we're kind of letting him get into his normal stride, and hopefully that will show up.

"We've got to cover a little bit better because we were losing too many yards on the returns for as good of kicks as we were getting."

Santana Moss returned Zastudil's first punt 17 yards, followed by a 12-yard return by Matt Farmer. Zastudil's kicks left open field for Jets returners, though that was more a function of the punt team not getting downfield in time.

Even with the returns, it was a better performance for Zastudil, the Ravens' fourth-round pick out of Ohio, than the preseason opener in which he averaged just 38.8 yards on six kicks.

"I felt good," Zastudil said. "After the first game, I was over-striding a bit. You do the reps in practice, but you don't know the speed of the game until you're actually in the game. So I think I probably rushed myself a little bit. But this last game, I realized just stick to what you do in practice: Take the same steps, get the same get-off times and you will be successful.

"I went out there and felt relaxed and kicked like this organization expects me to kick."

Exercising caution

Tackle Jonathan Ogden and receiver Brandon Stokley spent much of the latter part of yesterday morning's practice on a cart with their left legs propped up.

Ogden felt a slight twinge in his hamstring; Stokley hurt his calf after a 25-yard reception in front of safety Will Demps. Both are expected to play Friday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"It was just something where if you feel something, don't push it," Ogden said. "But it's fine."

Stokley had some immediate swelling, but both he and Ogden returned for the afternoon practice.

Not for naught

Billick is optimistic there will not be a repeat of last season's wasteful trip to Veterans Stadium.

The Ravens and Philadelphia were scheduled to open the preseason against each other, but the game was canceled because the artificial turf was coming apart at some of the seams.

"They've already played Green Bay, so they've been through that transition period," Billick said. "I have more than enough faith in the Eagles that the playing surface will be playable."

The Eagles are scheduled to move into a new stadium next season.

Sideline counsel

The Ravens had a full-squad afternoon practice, and cornerback James Trapp took his usual place during it - on the sideline passing out advice.

Trapp and Ravens coaches feel it is best to not overwork the 11-year veteran, a policy they hope will keep him healthy through the season. Trapp missed six games last year because of a groin injury.

"Everything is great," Trapp said. "[Ravens trainer Bill Tessendorf] and those guys have been looking out for me this year. I feel great."

Miscellaneous

Cornerback Alvin Porter returned to practice after missing two days because of the birth of his daughter. ... Linebacker Ray Lewis wore jersey No. 1 in practice instead of his usual 52. Trapp is also wearing a different number (5 instead of 38). ... Former Raven and current Washington Redskin Kipp Vickers made a brief appearance at the team hotel yesterday to have lunch with guard Bennie Anderson.

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