Team's success eases Sanders' frustration


Veteran receiver savors just second opportunity to play in postseason



December 31, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

The numbers tell the story of a disappointing and frustrating season for Ravens wide receiver Frank Sanders.

Sanders, signed as a free agent in the offseason from the Arizona Cardinals, was expected to give the Ravens the possession receiver they coveted, but he had a career-low 14 catches for 170 yards and no touchdowns.

He was inactive for three games because of various injuries, including back spasms that kept him out of Sunday night's 13-10 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and was held without a catch in five other contests.

But when asked about this season yesterday, Sanders, who has two career 1,000-yard receiving seasons, including an 89-catch, 1,145-yard campaign for the Cardinals in 1998, broke into a wide smile and spoke of having one of the most enjoyable times of his nine-year career.

"There's nothing like this," said Sanders, who made the playoffs once in his eight years as a Cardinal. "I woke up this morning and I said to myself, I'm going to work today, not packing to go home like I would be doing in Arizona right now. This has just been an exciting year."

Sanders recalled that he said aloud on the sideline Sunday, "Thank you, Mr. Bidwill," in reference to Bill Bidwill, the maligned owner of the Cardinals, the team Sanders left in April when he received a contract from the Ravens that is worth $700,000 this year.

Sanders is due to make $2 million next year.

Sanders, who has just two receptions for 13 yards in the past five games, said his back is still a little tight, but he expects to play Saturday.

"Not everyone gets this opportunity," he said. "Nine years in the league and only going [to the playoffs] once. Never going as a division champ, never having a winning season like this, never being around an organization or around fans that support a football team like this. [The injuries and subpar numbers] don't take away none of it."

No role reversal

Even with the likely return of Peter Boulware from injury Saturday, Ravens fourth-year defensive end Marques Douglas doesn't expect his role to change much.

"I'm still going to have to step up," Douglas said. "I've been playing anywhere from 50 to 60 plays regardless of whether Peter is back or not. It hasn't changed much for me. You just try to go out and make plays."

Against Pittsburgh on Sunday night, Douglas, getting the opportunity to play in the majority of pass-rushing situations with Boulware out, had a career game with 2 1/2 sacks. The sacks were his first since Oct. 12 at Arizona and gave him 4 1/2 for the season.

McAlister is mum

Ravens Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister was reminded yesterday of his comments, published in Sports Illustrated in January 2001, regarding Titans running back Eddie George.

Talking about a play in which Ray Lewis slammed George to the ground on a screen pass in the Ravens' 24-23 victory in a November 2001 game, McAlister was quoted as saying, "Every time Eddie touched the ball after that, he just folded like a baby. Check the film. He'd hit the hole and hit the ground first thing. He didn't want any part of us."

McAlister, who denied making the comments, also was asked if the Titans are scared of Lewis.

He declined to speak on the subject, but did cause some laughter when he joked that he was scared of the Ravens linebacker.

Anderson says he's fine

Ravens right guard Bennie Anderson, who didn't play Sunday night because of a knee injury, said he's feeling pretty good this week and expects to play against the Titans.

Anderson said he would have been able to play against the Steelers if one of the Ravens' offensive linemen went down with an injury.

TV ratings high

The Ravens' victory over the Steelers on Sunday night earned a 40.9 rating in the Baltimore market.

That was the second-highest total in any market last week - behind just Milwaukee for the Dec. 22 Packers-Raiders game - and the highest regular-season rating in the team's Baltimore market history.

The rating is the percentage of all homes with TVs, whether or not they are in use.

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