If called on, Ravens' C. Taylor is more than ready to answer

Back set to spell J. Lewis vs. Broncos if he's needed

October 22, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Chester Taylor will not attempt to put on weight.

In addition, the Ravens backup running back will not work out any longer or spend any more time mentally preparing for games than he already does now.

Taylor has no plans to do anything differently in case Jamal Lewis' sprained shoulder prohibits him from playing in Sunday's home game against the Denver Broncos and beyond.

While Lewis is expected to play, there is a good chance his shoulder will bother him the rest of the season, heightening the importance of Taylor and his 5-foot-11, 213-pound frame (which is about 32 pounds lighter than Lewis').

Taylor feels he can handle anything thrown at him just the way he is now.

"I'm going to go with what I got. I can withstand getting tackled and getting hit," Taylor said. "Whenever they call my number, I just have to go in there and produce. If Jamal can play, he is going to go out there. But whenever he comes out, I've just got to go up in there and just spell him."

Taylor has done an admirable job filling that role as the third-down back this season. His 29 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown are just slightly off his total from all last season (33 carries, 122 yards, no rushing touchdowns).

He has had at least five carries in each of the past three games and scored his only touchdown of the season on a 2-yard plunge over left guard in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 34-26 Ravens loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

It was a play that looked tailor-made for Lewis.

"He lets me know when he gets tired and to look out for him," Taylor said. "I just try to pay close attention to him, and whenever he is ready to come out the game, I'll go in for him."

Bringing Taylor in as a change-of-pace back for Lewis has worked well, but there may come a time when Taylor is called upon to take the lead.

If Lewis ever has to miss a game, Taylor and rookie Musa Smith - who was activated for the first time this season against the Bengals but had no carries - would have to attempt to match the production of the NFL's rushing leader in Lewis.

"Chester plays bigger than he is," running backs coach Matt Simon said. "In all honesty, I think he's shown that he can meet the challenges that it takes to be a regular player in the NFL."

And how about Smith, who has not taken many hits in live action since a knee injury sidelined him all preseason and the first part of the regular season?

Coaches have been impressed since the moment the Ravens drafted him in the third round out of Georgia.

He would likely spell Taylor in the same manner Taylor spells Lewis.

"I've been around a lot of running backs, and guys have instinctive qualities or they don't," Simon said. "There is an old phrase, `This dog will hunt.' You know pretty quickly when the bullets start flying if they run to shelter or hang in the weeds, or if they go out and get the duck. Musa will go out and get the duck.

"We've seen enough, and he's shown a little bit on special teams that he's a competitor. We've seen him in some situations in practices that other people haven't seen."

But the brunt of the Ravens' running game would fall on Taylor, whose soft-spoken demeanor would not leave one to believe him to be one of the more confident players on the team on the field.

His confidence crossed the line to arrogance against the Bengals, drawing a taunting penalty for tossing the ball toward one of his tacklers.

"You address it after having looked at it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I addressed it with Chester and the team. The official was right in calling it. ... [Taylor] got pummeled up with an extra shot; I won't say it was a late shot out of bounds. It wasn't that. [Taylor] came out of it and almost with a single gesture, rolled the ball out that way. It's a penalty, and I will concur with the officials on that one."

The Ravens expect more professionalism, especially if Taylor's responsibilities increase.

"I feel comfortable," Taylor said. "The carries I've been getting, I feel fine afterward. But only time will tell. I'm pretty sure I can withstand it."

NOTE: Ravens safety Ed Reed will be a correspondent for the NFL Network, which is set to launch Nov. 4.

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Denver Broncos (5-2) vs. Ravens (3-3)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line: Ravens by 1 1/2

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