J. Johnson ready to step into starting role


Rookie defensive end earns first start vs. 49ers with injured Weaver out

Pro Football

November 29, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Soon after the Ravens selected Jarret Johnson in the fourth round of the draft, the hustling defensive end out of Alabama had a talk with his new position coach, Rex Ryan.

The coach wanted to let Johnson know they were bringing him in to contribute, not sit.

"Rex has been telling me I was going to be playing since I got here," Johnson said. "But I didn't start believing it until the season actually started.

"I didn't really know what to expect. I've just kind of been taking it as it comes. I like the situation I'm in and the time I'm getting to play."

Johnson's playing time has steadily increased throughout this season, and it should peak tomorrow against the San Francisco 49ers when he could make the first start of his career in place of Tony Weaver.

Weaver will not play after re-injuring his neck during the first series against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Weaver originally hurt his neck a week earlier against the Miami Dolphins.

"Obviously, we are going to miss Tony because Tony makes a ton of plays," Johnson said. "But I'm looking at it as an opportunity to go in there and try and make some plays and try to help out this team and fill his shoes as much as I can. When you lose Tony, you lose a sack and a couple of tackles for loss for the game. So I'm just trying to fill his shoes - big shoes to fill though."

Johnson has played in every game this season, and though he has just 11 tackles, he also has had several quarterback pressures and disruptive plays.

The workload has taken its toll on Johnson.

"We need him to play an increasing number of reps," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We're excited about his development. We've got to remember, too, that we are closing in on that rookie wall that shows up occasionally. They are fighting through it, but I know it's beginning to feel like a long season now."

Said Johnson: "I'm feeling it. The most games I ever played in college were 13, and we've played well past that now. But you do things to recoup, and I stay in the cold tub."

Walsh a mentor

Billick was drafted by the 49ers in the 11th round as a tight end out of Brigham Young by then-coach Bill Walsh in 1977. Billick served as assistant director of public relations from 1979 to 1980.

Walsh, whom Billick considers a mentor, is now a 49ers consultant.

"I don't speak to Bill on a regular basis," Billick said. "Every couple of weeks, I might talk with Bill. Obviously, he has meant a lot to me in my career, as he has with so many throughout the league."

Under pressure

The Ravens have allowed 13 sacks the past three games after giving up 16 through the first eight.

It is a disturbing trend for the team, especially considering San Francisco is second in the NFL with 30 sacks, one less than the Ravens. Defensive end Andre Carter's 23 sacks since December 2001 is fifth most in the league.

"They have a good veteran there in [defensive tackle] Bryant Young," guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "They are all hustler-type guys that don't give up. In that aspect, we've got to step up. Obviously, there were six sacks last game, and not all of them were all our fault. But whenever a sack is made, it's on us."

Injury report

Receiver Marcus Robinson, who has irritation between his chest wall and the lining of his lungs, was limited in practice yesterday but team officials said he is expected to play Sunday.

Robinson first felt a sharp pain in his chest around 3 a.m. Thursday and underwent an electrocardiogram and CT scans, both of which came out normal. He said it only bothers him now when he takes a deep breath.

"I think everything is fine," said Robinson, who caught a team-record four touchdown passes on Sunday. "You hate to miss practice because you need the reps. I've been in this league for a while and I think I know how to take mental reps."

Quarterback Anthony Wright had to limit his throws in practice because of a sore shoulder and was added to the injury report as probable.

End zone

Terrell Suggs and Peter Boulware have combined for 13 1/2 sacks. ... The Ravens have scored 99 fourth-quarter points, the most in the NFL. ... Ravens kickoff specialist Wade Richey is second in the league with 11 touchbacks. ... Cornerback Chris McAlister's jersey was retired at Arizona and his name was put in the stadium's Ring of Honor. He was also inducted into the team's Hall of Fame.

Sun staff reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

Next for Ravens

Matchup: San Francisco 49ers (5-6) vs. Ravens (6-5)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Tomorrow, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 3

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