Brightful picks up Tate's fumble

Ravens notebook

Rookie return specialist will get extended look

October 31, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

After an erratic preseason cost him his starting job, return specialist Lamont Brightful is now likely to get an extended chance to do what the Ravens drafted him for.

Brightful is expected to be the team's primary kickoff returner for Sunday's game at Atlanta in place of Robert Tate, who fumbled twice in the 31-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I was just waiting to get that opportunity," said Brightful, who returned the last four kickoffs for 75 yards against the Steelers. "Now I've got to take full advantage of it. I just want to go out there, do my job and try to contribute to this team."

Brightful was one of the Ravens' four sixth-round picks and entered the preseason as the No. 1 punt and kickoff returner.

He muffed a number of kicks in training camp, then averaged 16.8 yards on six kickoff returns during the preseason and was inactive for the first four regular-season games.

"We'd like to give Brightful a chance, along the developmental theme," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He's shown that he is secure enough with the ball and can do some things. I'm much more comfortable with him than I was earlier this year."

Tate is averaging 20.9 yards a return, 15th in the AFC. Tate's second fumble was recovered by the Steelers and set up their third touchdown.

"Most of the special teams difficulties we've had have come down to basic fundamentals," Billick said. "If you've got guys in position, you have to make the tackle. If you've got the ball, you have to hold on to it.

"My expectations are never to turn the ball over. My expectations are not to miss a clear-cut tackle, so that is what you're always working on."

Wright is backup QB

Anthony Wright will be the backup to starter Jeff Blake on Sunday, the first time this season the former Dallas Cowboy will be activated on a game day.

Wright started five games in the two previous seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. Chris Redman will be the team's emergency quarterback.

"It's a change for me mentally because I've been third-string ever since I've been here," Wright said. "Now with me being with the second-string, I have to prepare as if I'm going to start just in case something happens with Jeff. I have to be ready to go in and perform."

Redman takes a seat

Redman, recovering from a herniated disk in his lower back, sat out of practice yesterday for the first time this season.

"The hard part for him is he's feeling pretty good. And the rehab is going pretty well," Billick said. "But the doctors have put him on a specific, `This is what you are going to do today, this is what you are going to do tomorrow.' By the end of the week, what's going to be real hard for him is he's probably going to get to Sunday and feel good, and the tingling will be gone.

"Everything is going to be fine and yet he's not able to go. That's the frustration he is going to have to deal with."

Nugent settles in

Defensive end David Nugent practiced for the first time with the Ravens and said he is recovered from a torn groin that led to his release from New England. Nugent may see a few plays in the defensive rotation against Atlanta because Michael McCrary (knee) is out.

"I think this is a better 3-4 [record] team than where I'm coming from," Nugent said. "They have a chance to turn things around.

"I just want to fill whatever role they give me."

Atlanta homecoming

With Atlanta a popular off-season home for many of the Ravens, tickets are in high demand this week.

Safety Anthony Mitchell leads the team with about 120 family members and friends expected to attend Sunday's game. Mitchell attended Westlake High School in Atlanta.

Running back Jamal Lewis and defensive end Adalius Thomas also will have a high number of family and friends in attendance.

"It's exciting since this is first time for me to be able to go back," Mitchell said. "I have a lot of people coming. I just want to go down and enjoy myself and have fun regardless of how much I play. I want to make sure I give them an eyeful."

Injury update

Redman, Ray Lewis (shoulder) and McCrary did not practice yesterday. All three are out Sunday. Cornerback Gary Baxter (neck, probable) practiced and should be ready to play.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Atlanta Falcons

Site: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line: Falcons by 7 1/2

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