For Heap, memories may outnumber fans


Field of star's alma mater draws small NFL crowds

October 11, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Back when he was at Mountain View High School in Mesa, Ariz., Ravens tight end Todd Heap played a game at Sun Devil Stadium for the state football championship.

Heap estimated about 25,000 people attended that game, which may be more than attend tomorrow's Arizona Cardinals game against the Ravens.

As of Wednesday, 23,506 tickets had been sold.

"We probably at least had that many," Heap said.

Heap is returning to his home state as a Pro Bowl player, and will play his first game on his college campus of Arizona State since he was the Ravens' first-round pick in the 2001 draft.

"I haven't been back there yet in the NFL," Heap said. "It will be exciting to see the stadium. It's a pretty nice setting between the mountains and in the desert."

Ravens coach Brian Billick said the sparse Cardinals crowd expected likely means the Ravens will have to conjure up their own energy.

The Cardinals drew 23,127 for their opener against Seattle, a 38-0 loss, but did have 58,784 for their next game against the Green Bay Packers. Many of those, though, were Packers fans.

"We're not going out there to play for them, we're going out there to play for the Baltimore Ravens," said Heap, who leads the Ravens with 16 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown.

"I wasn't a really big fan [of the Cardinals]. I don't know a whole lot of people who were. But we definitely watched the games after our college games. They'd be playing in our stadium, so we'd watch the teams they came in to play."

Cards' receiving depleted

The Ravens might have only four healthy receivers tomorrow, but the Cardinals' situation is worse.

Starter Bryant Johnson (City College) likely will not play with a shoulder injury, and third receiver Jason McAddley is out with a strained hamstring. Bryan Gilmore likely will start for Johnson (18 catches, 207 yards).

"We've had a hell of a time trying to keep people healthy," Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said. "I'm not going to be cute with you and tell you it doesn't make a difference. It makes a difference when you are missing players. I purposefully kept six receivers on the roster after what happened to us last year."

Injury report

The Ravens reported no changes to their injury report. All players practiced yesterday except Ron Johnson, who will miss the game after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last week. The Ravens expect everyone else to be available for the game.

Hydration strategy

Besides rotating players frequently to help counteract temperatures expected to be in the low 90s, Billick plans to monitor drinking habits.

On the plane ride to Arizona, the Ravens couldn't have sodas or coffee, and they won't be available for the players at the hotel either.

"We put the players on a regimen of hydration after meals," Billick said. "You do those things, obviously, the hydration because of the heat. But you can only do so much."

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