K. Johnson ready for first steps as a Raven

Start of passing camp gives receiver chance to get himself acclimated

Pro Football

May 17, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

As the Ravens reconvene today for the first time since an opening-round NFL playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans, a former foe turned teammate will likely get his share of welcoming handshakes.

Receiver Kevin Johnson, who was acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a fourth-round draft pick with the hope that he can help revive a dormant passing game, will be on hand along with most of the Ravens for a four-day passing camp.

While much is expected of Johnson this season, not much is expected from him in his inaugural workout with the team. Expect that to change soon.

"He's real different than some of the other guys," receivers coach David Shaw said. "It's not that he has a free pass, but he's a vet. He's played in a lot of big games, playoff games [with the Cleveland Browns]. So I'm going to be understanding of him, where he is not going to be in July shape. But my expectations from him are work ethic and the understanding of how we work."

The goal is to have Johnson learn the playbook by training camp, which makes these voluntary sessions where he can apply what he has been studying all the more valuable.

"It will be a good first step for him," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "And I imagine he and [quarterback] Kyle [Boller] will spend a lot of time between now and veterans camp, and hopefully we'll have a better result then."

While Johnson will be making his debut in a Ravens practice uniform, two other receivers, Javin Hunter and Randy Hymes, will be making their long-awaited comebacks.

Both suffered season-ending injuries in the last preseason. They return now only to be in the midst of a roster spot battle that includes third-round pick Devard Darling, Ron Johnson, Kareem Kelly and sixth-round pick Clarence Moore.

"They've been doing great jobs rehabbing, but rehabbing and football are two different worlds," Shaw said of Hunter and Hymes. "They've got to start playing football again. All the football movements, it's hard to simulate without being on the football field."

Although Billick expects all the receivers as well as most of the offensive and defensive linemen (though they are not required) to attend, the team will have some conspicuous absences.

Running back Jamal Lewis and defensive back Corey Fuller have been excused so they can focus on their respective legal cases. Cornerback Chris McAlister, the team's franchise player, will also be absent, as well as linebackers Ray Lewis (finger) and Peter Boulware and defensive back Gary Baxter (hernia).

Those absences, though, are not that important considering that the focus of these hourlong workouts is in trying to improve the passing game, which finished last in the league last season.

"It's the next intermediate step," Billick said of the importance of these sessions. "Now we can take that next step in a coordinated, group atmosphere working in some of the changes we have."

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