Professor Gash gets another year of tenure

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Veteran fullback returns to mentor friend Ricard

September 03, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

After weeks of speculation, fullback Sam Gash made his return to the Ravens' practice field yesterday and felt he was back where he belonged.

"My wife and I kept our place hoping that it would work out, and finally it did," Gash said. "It's a great organization that you enjoy playing for."

Gash, 33, signed a one-year contract last weekend and is expected to back up Alan Ricard and serve as a mentor to the younger running backs.

The mentoring is nothing new for Gash, but the backup role is a change. He and Obafemi Ayanbadejo split the fullback duties the previous two seasons.

"I'm here, and if you want to call it an insurance policy, you can," Gash said. "But I'm here to help out. The years I've been in the league, it was tough earlier because I didn't have anyone to look out for me. But I like [Ricard]. I think he is going to be a good player."

Ricard, who will start his first game Sunday at Carolina, was prepared for Gash's arrival and considers the 11-year NFL veteran a friend. The two have similar, battering styles.

"Me and Sam had been talking, so I knew there might be a possibility that he would be back," Ricard said. "I just think it is good. We're good friends. It is like friendly competition."

Gash, one of the league's premier blocking backs the past six years, shunned an offer from the Denver Broncos to stay a Raven.

"Sam brings instant credibility, gives [the backs] a resource," Billick said. "He's a great mentor for Alan Ricard. That position takes a beating. It's hard to get that lead back all the way through the season."

In Panthers' den

With the youngest roster in the NFL, the Ravens did not catch a break by having to open on the road.

Granted, Carolina's Ericsson Stadium is not exactly Lambeau Field, but Billick is taking the challenge as serious. The Panthers lost all eight of their home games last year.

"Playing on the road in the NFL is the toughest thing in all of professional sports," Billick said. " ... Fortunately, once we get past the bye and the Monday night game, it is a very even-tempered schedule."

It's a kick just to be here

Kicker J.R. Jenkins said he is confident that, depending on the type of day and game situation, he could make field goals up to 60 yards.

Long-distance field goals are the second part of Jenkins' job after kicking off. Veteran Matt Stover will handle field goals of less than 50 yards.

"They made a commitment to me to be the kickoff guy," Jenkins said. "Hopefully, there is a bright future here. I just feel real positive being here now."

Reloading the shotgun?

The shotgun has been missing from the Ravens' offense recently, but center Mike Flynn said it is not gone for good.

Quarterback Chris Redman stayed under center in the first half of the past two games. The formation could, however, return Sunday against Carolina.

"It's really just down and distance thing," Flynn said.

Extra points

Look for a few more roster changes. "We still need to add a fifth wide receiver," Billick said. He also did not rule out re-signing Ayanbadejo, released Sunday by the Miami Dolphins.

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