Ravens may pass on playing injured receiver Darling this season

Hurt Ogden's prognosis for opener improving

September 04, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

While the Ravens have expressed optimism that banged-up offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden will start the Sept. 12 season opener in Cleveland, there's another injury on offense that is far less certain.

Team officials are deciding whether to place receiver Devard Darling on injured reserve, which would end a once-promising rookie season.

Darling was the team's No. 3 receiver for most of the preseason before a quadriceps injury sidelined him the past two weeks. The third-round pick out of Washington State made one catch for 7 yards this summer, which began with a start in the preseason opener.

A final evaluation on his status - whether it's a short- or long-term injury - could be made by Monday, a day after the NFL's final major cutdown.

"There's a frustration on everybody's part, Devard's included, that he has been hurt and we haven't had a substantial look at him," coach Brian Billick said. "But clearly, he's going to be a part of this team one way or another. You don't give up on a third-round draft choice because of an injury. Our only concern is whether this is going to be short- or long-term."

Meanwhile, the Ravens continue to be encouraged about the outlook of Ogden, the All-Pro left tackle who sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in Thursday's preseason finale. There is a chance that he could be listed as probable when the injury list is officially released Wednesday.

Darling's injury secures Randy Hymes' spot as the third receiver behind starters Kevin Johnson and Travis Taylor, but really doesn't increase the chances of the Ravens adding a wide-out through a trade.

It's unlikely the Ravens would give up a draft pick for disgruntled Tampa Bay receiver Keenan McCardell, although they would probably be interested in the 34-year-old veteran if he is released.

There are more pressing personnel decisions for Ravens officials, who are working this weekend to trim their 71-man roster to 53. In assessing the roster, the biggest difficulty will be trying to keep three solid players (receiver Clarence Moore, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin and quarterback Josh Harris) with only two spots remaining.

Here's a projection of three scenarios they could be considering:

Place Darling on injured reserve, which allows Moore, Franklin and Harris to take the final three spots.

Keep Darling active, give the final two spots to Moore and Franklin and try to sneak Harris onto the practice squad.

Based on recent history, developmental quarterbacks usually don't get picked up by other teams, which means Harris has the best chance of the remaining candidates (Moore and Franklin) to clear waivers and make it to the practice squad.

By doing so, the Ravens are taking a small risk of carrying just two quarterbacks on the active roster. But Hymes, who played quarterback at Grambling State, and punter Dave Zastudil could serve as emergency quarterbacks.

Keep Darling active, give one of the spots to Harris and decide whether to keep Moore or Franklin.

The Ravens would play it safe this way by keeping Harris as the third quarterback, but they would have to part with either Moore or Franklin, two young players who have impressed this summer. Practice squad is not considered an option for Moore or Franklin because it is believed they would be picked up by another team if released.

Moore, a sixth-round pick, is an intriguing talent because of his size (6 feet 6). Franklin, a fifth-round pick in 2003, is considered to have a solid upside as a defensive lineman.

The development of Moore and Franklin makes putting Harris on the practice squad a viable alternative.

Team officials declined to speculate on the different scenarios.

"There is still some debate," Billick said. "It's a good problem because we have some very good athletes that we're apt to let go. We'll massage this pretty good and look at all the variables."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns in regular-season opener

Site: Cleveland Browns Stadium

When: Sept. 12, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

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