Specialist Brightful speedy in return to form

After demotion last week, he runs back for 132 yards

Ravens 24, Jaguars 17

Nfl Week 9

November 03, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Ravens return specialist Lamont Brightful didn't care so much about why he got the opportunity.

It was what he was able to do with a second chance that truly concerned him.

Brightful was back as the primary return man yesterday after being replaced by Dedric Ward last week, and he sparked the Ravens with two long returns that set up scores in the team's 24-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday at M&T Bank Stadium.

"I didn't feel like that I had to get the offense jump-started, but I knew it would be a big help," said Brightful, who returned three kickoffs for 101 yards and five punts for 31 yards. "In any game, if I get good field position, it is a big boost to the offense and also it turns out to be very good for our defense. Every game, I put pressure on myself to give us good field position."

Brightful took the opening kickoff 31 yards to the Ravens' 41, a good start for the four-play drive that ended with Kyle Boller's 33-yard touchdown pass to Todd Heap.

But his biggest play came after the Jaguars had tied the game at 10 late in the third quarter on Akin Ayodele's 15-yard fumble return.

Brightful caught Seth Marler's ensuing kickoff at the 2-yard line and raced down the left side for 58 yards before being tackled by Marler.

"They opened up the middle more than we thought, so I just hit the hole as hard as I could," Brightful said.

Starting the drive on the Jaguars' 35, the Ravens ended up with Matt Stover's 32-yard field goal for a 13-10 lead.

"That was a very big play [Lamont] made," said special teams coach Gary Zauner. "That's all we're supposed to do, get the offense and defense good field position, and we had it most of the day."

Brightful's play was a welcome sight for Ravens coach Brian Billick, who had hoped to get a little more out of his return game and wanted to see what the veteran Ward, a recent free-agent signing, could do.

Ward returned three punts for 26 yards and one kickoff for 20 yards last week against Denver, but was inactive yesterday.

Ward's roster spot went to cornerback Raymond Walls, who was needed as an insurance policy in the secondary with Corey Fuller out with groin and hamstring injuries, and his spot on the return game went back to Brightful.

Brightful made the most of it, showing the speed and explosiveness that was on display at times last season, when he averaged 20.6 yards on kick returns and 16.1 yards on punt returns.

Before yesterday, Brightful, who found out he would be back as the primary return man on Friday but kept it to himself, had fielded 17 punts for a return average of 7.0 yards, and was averaging 21.5 yards on four kickoff returns.

"I always feel like I have something to prove," Brightful said. "I was disappointed last week because I am a competitor. But it makes you work harder and want to take advantage of every opportunity you get. You never know when your last chance will be."

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