Baxter snaps to attention, stands tall


Healthy cornerback tossed into mix against Tampa, is in line for starting spot

September 17, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

After what seemed like ages for both Gary Baxter and those wanting to see him play, the Ravens' 2001 second-round pick received his first extended action Sunday.

Baxter played more than 40 snaps in the 25-0 loss to Tampa Bay. He registered six tackles and showed no ill effects from a hamstring injury that kept him out all of preseason.

Whether Baxter will eventually become an elite player in the NFL could not be determined from his performance against the Buccaneers, but he did show athleticism, speed, and that he still has a way to go before he becomes a standout cornerback.

Baxter did not make any costly mistakes, but Tampa Bay receiver Joe Jurevicius caught a key 14-yard pass from Brad Johnson on a perfectly timed comeback route over Baxter.

"It felt really good just to be out there with the team, finally play a whole game," Baxter said.

Baxter figured he would be the target of Johnson with cornerback Chris McAlister on the other side. But Tampa Bay ran mostly routes underneath the Ravens' zone, and Baxter rarely got matched up one-on-one with either Keyshawn Johnson or Keenan McCardell without safety help.

"Everything they came at me with, I knew they were going to come at me with," Baxter said. " ... I made plays, and some plays I could have made better. But I didn't feel like I was a target."

Projected to start in the preseason, Baxter will likely do so for the first this season against the Denver Broncos (Sept. 30) in place of Alvin Porter.

"Clearly he's ready to go the full game, especially now with two weeks before the next game," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He played very aggressively, very hard and did some excellent things."

Bucs holds line

Despite playing against a revamped offensive line, the Ravens sacked Johnson just once and pressured him on just a handful of his 31 attempts.

The Buccaneers, who gave up three sacks a week earlier against New Orleans, started tackle Kenyatta Walker and guard Cosey Coleman for the first time this season.

"I think we put some pressure on him, but Brad is excellent at dropping the ball off," Billick said. "You are going to be hard-pressed to put a sack on him."

Je. Ogden catches up, on

Receiver Jeff Ogden returned two punts in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, less than a week after signing with the team. Ogden averaged 10.5 yards for a hurt McAlister.

"We didn't practice it once," Ogden said. "When you get out there, you just try and look for some blocks.

"It was good. I wasn't even sure if I was going to be suiting up. Fortunately, I got in when Chris got banged up a little bit. It gave me an opportunity to get a couple under my belt."

Billick said he will continue to use McAlister in conjunction with Ogden.

Injury list

Tight end Terry Jones suffered a broken hand against Tampa Bay and will likely miss the Broncos game. Safety Will Demps (elbow) should be able to play against Denver. Running back Jamal Lewis (ribs), long snapper Joe Maese (thumb) and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (concussion) also sustained injuries against the Buccaneers, but none are considered serious.

Lewis will have an X-ray on his ribs today, but the Ravens do not anticipate the injury limiting him against Denver.

End zone

The Ravens re-signed defensive tackle Nate Bolling to the practice squad and released former Morgan State standout receiver Marc Lester. Bolling has gone from the active roster to the practice squad to off the roster and back to the practice squad. "It's been hectic the past couple of weeks," he said. "I've been talking to teams, but I believe Baltimore is the place for me." ...

Kicker Matt Stover had the first "did not play" of his 13-year career Sunday. J.R. Jenkins handled the game's opening kickoff and the Ravens' field-goal try, which was blocked. "I had been kicking off during the course of my career other than last year, I always kicked off at the beginning of the game or halftime," Stover said. ...

Quarterback Chris Redman has not yet heard from the NFL about violating league rules in wearing black high-top cleats in Sunday's loss. Redman wore the shoes in honor of late Colts legend John Unitas. ... Fullback Sam Gash was inactive for Sunday's game, and the two-time Pro Bowl player may have to get used to such a status the next few weeks. "That is our profile right now," Billick said. ... Pete Pompey (Edmondson) is the Ravens High School Coach of the Week.

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