Ravens' Harris set to tackle opportunity

Linebacker will see time in place of Lewis vs. Colts

October 11, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Hours before his team was to play in its second consecutive nationally televised night game Sunday, Ravens linebacker Bernardo Harris sat inconspicuously in a downtown Cleveland sports restaurant amid a host of Browns fans watching NFL action.

Harris, thankfully, was not recognized as a Raven by any of the patrons. Unfortunately for Harris, he experienced an equal amount of notoriety during the game broadcast later that night.

The former Green Bay Packer who recorded 100-plus tackle seasons the previous five years, spent his third game on the inactive list against Cleveland. But with Ray Lewis still doubtful for Sunday's game at Indianapolis against the Colts, Harris will now likely get a chance to get his career going again.

"It's weird because we've had two prime-time games, and I haven't played in [either] of them," Harris said. "My wife gets calls from people saying, `I didn't see Bernardo play.' Or when we were in Carolina people said, `I went to the game, but we didn't hear Bernardo's name. We didn't see him. Is he playing, or is he hurt, or is he on the team?'

"The family gets asked more questions than I do. That's the kind of stuff you go through and you're not used to. The last seven years, if I'm healthy, I'm playing and contributing. So that's the thing you have to deal with, but that's part of the business."

In Lewis' place, the Ravens are expected to use a combination of Harris, undrafted rookie Bart Scott and possibly veteran outside linebacker Cornell Brown. For Harris, who signed a one-year contract with the Ravens after the Packers released him early in the offseason, it is an opportunity to answer those wondering whatever happened to one of the league's most productive linebackers.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Harris, who entered the league undrafted out of North Carolina. "I came here. I wanted to get a chance to play. I knew my role coming in. I knew I wasn't going to play ahead of Ray. I knew they were looking at Ed [Hartwell], and he had a great preseason so I didn't get a chance to play then. But I knew it's a long season and opportunities do come up."

While Harris has played only on special teams in one game this year, Scott has seen time in the Ravens' base defense - about a half dozen snaps in two games.

Scott caught Ravens coaches' attention early in mini-camp with his athleticism and play-making ability, and will likely see action on longer-yardage situations if Lewis is out in place of Harris.

"Playing football is all about rising to the challenge and preparing yourself for the occasion," Scott said. "And I'm preparing myself for this one."

Scott is one of the Ravens' most versatile linebackers, switching from outside to inside, back to outside and now back inside since the beginning of training camp.

"Athletically, he's quick," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "He gets to the ball a lot. He made plays. He didn't always go where he was supposed to, but he made plays. You can do something with somebody that makes plays."

The Ravens may also opt to move Brown, who took over for Shannon Taylor after the second game of the season as a starter, inside on some downs next to Hartwell. "Wherever they want to put me, that's fine with me," Brown said.

But it will likely be Harris called upon early to contain Colts running back Edgerrin James and set the tone for the Ravens' defense.

"My main focus is going in there and doing what I can do, playing hard with intensity and just contributing that way," Harris said. "I can't try and go in there and be him because there is only one Ray Lewis. You can't let that stuff get to you. You just have to be a professional, go out there and give your best.

"I still can contribute, still can play. That's the thing: it seems like forever since I've played or started. If given the chance to go out there and play a tremendous amount, it gives me a chance to prove to myself and see how I respond as a person in how things have gone for me in my career right now and how I want them to continue to go."

NOTES: Center Mike Flynn (ankle) and defensive end Michael McCrary (knee) did not practice yesterday. Both are questionable for Sunday's game. ... Kicker Matt Stover is the Baltimore pro football all-time leader in points with 679. Stover passed former Colt Lenny Moore on Sunday night.

Next for Ravens

Opponent:Indianapolis Colts

Site:RCA Dome, Indianapolis

When:Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio:Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line:Colts by 7

SunSpot:For more coverage, visit sunspot.net/ravens

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