R. Johnson itching to return

Ravens notebook

Receiver is eager to get back in lineup, sees layoff as `a learning experience'

Ravens notebook

Pro Football

November 04, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Ron Johnson's catch, a 12-yard beauty in which he contorted his body in mid-air and held onto the ball after crashing to the ground to convert a first down in the opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, ranks as one of the team's best receptions this season.

It also was Johnson's only catch this season and could continue to be for the foreseeable future.

Johnson has been inactive the past four games, the first two because of minor knee surgery.

Coming off a preseason in which he led the Ravens with 12 receptions for 200 yards, Johnson is taking his midseason inactivity in stride.

"A lot of guys miss the whole season with injuries," said Johnson, the team's 2002 fourth-round pick. "It's guys on IR now that wish they were playing. I just take it as a learning experience. I don't think it is the end for me. I'm just going to take each day as an experience.

"The inactive games, that's not what I want to do. I'm using that to drive me in practice and to help my focus out. I want to use it as a tool and not something that is going to hold me back."

Who knows what Johnson's future is with the Ravens? He said he will talk with his position coach and possibly coach Brian Billick to see what he needs to do to get back on the field.

The season is similar to Johnson's rookie year, when he was the star of training camp but found himself in a funk midway through the season and eventually fell behind Javin Hunter and former college quarterback Randy Hymes on the depth chart.

Johnson, though, is not giving up on this season.

"I don't think they thought I was really healthy," Johnson said of the coaches. "I'm not 100 percent but I'm getting back. We'll see where it goes from there.

"I could have had surgery to repair it for the season, but I didn't want to do that. I just want to be able to go, and I can go."

First-half concerns

The Jaguars more than doubled the Ravens in first-half time of possession (20:44 to 9:16) during Sunday's game, mainly because Jacksonville converted nine first downs.

Four of those first downs came on the ground, though the net result was just three points, and the Ravens went on to win, 24-17.

"What's the old thing, you're conflicted about your mother-in-law driving off the cliff in your Mercedes?" Billick said.

"I love [the defense] because [the Jaguars] didn't score, but ... 21 minutes in the first half. That had a little bit to do with the offensive flow as well. The way they ran the ball was a concern, but ultimately the defense stepped up and got it done."

Take a knee, get booed

There were scattered boos at the end of the first half when the Ravens decided to take a knee at their 6-yard line with 31 seconds and a full complement of timeouts.

Billick said he felt there was not enough time to move within scoring range, and he didn't want to take a chance at having to punt the ball back to Jacksonville. The Jaguars had one timeout left.

"I understand the boos at the end of the half were at me, and I'm fine with that," Billick said. "I would suggest to our fans that there are other avenues for that during the week."

Reed laments drop

Safety Ed Reed had a chance to beat Ray Lewis to the punch but made an uncharacteristic drop of a game-clinching interception.

Reed read Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich's eyes, which were fixated on the middle of the field, and jumped in front of a pass intended for Jimmy Smith on the second play of Jacksonville's final drive. As Reed hit the ground, the ball popped out, leading him to fling it in frustration 40 yards back toward the line of scrimmage.

Lewis intercepted Leftwich on a tipped pass five plays later.

"I had it," said Reed, who also missed four tackles in the game. "Once I hit the ground, I dropped it. You've just got to hold onto the ball. I usually make those."

End zone

The Ravens improved their all-time record, including playoffs, to 63-62-1. It is the first time the team has been over .500 since winning their first game Sept. 1, 1996. The Ravens are one of 15 NFL teams with all-time records of .500 or better. ... Chester Taylor (offense), Tony Weaver (defense) and Lamont Brightful (special teams) were awarded game balls. ... Ravens players will participate in a Red Cross blood drive at M&T Bank Stadium today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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