Brightful looking for happy returns vs. Bengals

Ravens notebook

Return man struggling

Ward could be an option

Pro Football

October 16, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Looking to break out of a slump, return man Lamont Brightful should have a good chance to improve his 6.8-yard average when the Ravens play at the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

The Bengals are giving up 9.6 yards a return, which is 18th in the league. Brightful will need as many chances as he can get now that the Ravens have signed receiver Dedric Ward, who has return experience.

The Ravens signed Ward last week and activated him in Sunday's 26-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals after just three days of practice. Ward did not return any punts, but that could change soon if Brightful does not show some of the spark he had last year when he returned a punt for a 95-yard touchdown and averaged 16.1 yards a return.

"It hasn't really gone to my expectations," Brightful said of his average, which is second worst in the AFC. "I came in not as healthy as I wanted to, but I'm getting my health back. I'm just trying to get a good game in and get everything rolling."

Ward averaged 10.1 yards returning punts with the Miami Dolphins last year.

"That's what the league is about," Brightful said. "I look at it as a challenge, and you've got to step up. If not, they are going to bring somebody else in. That's how it goes."

Brightful did have a 44-yard punt return against the Cleveland Browns, but the bad news is that accounts for close to half his total punt return yards (95).

Of his 20 fielded punts, six have also been fair catches.

"I really haven't had too many chances to return this year," Brightful said. "There have been the fair catches. But if you get that one long one, that will push your average up a lot."

Mulitalo questionable

The Ravens have listed starting left guard Edwin Mulitalo (ankle) and backup Casey Rabach (hip) as questionable for Sunday's game.

If neither can play, tackle Damion Cook would shift over to guard, and the Ravens would have just six offensive linemen in uniform.

But both players were optimistic they would play.

"I don't even know what I am," Rabach said of his status. "We'll see what happens during the week."

Yesterday's practice was in shorts, but both participated.

Wearing the colors

Linebacker Peter Boulware and cornerback Corey Fuller sported new, dark green University of Miami jerseys during practice yesterday.

The jerseys came courtesy of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed after their Hurricanes beat Florida State in a game between the then-No. 2 and then-No. 5 teams in the country Saturday.

Boulware and Fuller, both of whom starred at Florida State, will be wearing the jerseys (which have their normal numbers) all week.

"We don't bet too much around here," Lewis said. "But they lost the bet. They even threw the bet out there, Corey and Peter. They were so confident because Miami lost a running back, and one of our safeties was out. So they felt confident and said whoever lost had to wear the jerseys next week."

Mistaken identity

Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna spoke with reverence of Boulware - he just commented on the wrong one.

Kitna repeatedly called Boulware "Michael Boulware" during a conference call with reporters yesterday.

Michael Boulware is Peter's brother and a linebacker at Florida State.

"Adalius Thomas and Michael Boulware, you might as well have the same guy," Kitna said. "Michael Boulware is special enough, now you have Adalius Thomas cut out of the same mold. He can cover, rush the passer and can do a lot of different things."

End zone

Reed was named the NFL's special teams Player of the Week. Reed blocked a punt and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown Sunday. Reed's touchdown was also nominated for Play of the Week. Fans can vote on NFL.com. ... The league decided to keep the Ravens' Oct. 26 home game against the Denver Broncos at 1 p.m. There were discussions about featuring the game nationally at 4:15 p.m.

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens (3-2) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (1-4)

Site: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line: Ravens by 2

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