P. Johnson catches on with team again


2nd-time Ravens receiver returns with new attitude

Heap remains on sideline

Pro Football

October 19, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The Ravens signed Patrick Johnson yesterday, a homecoming the seventh-year receiver hopes will relieve him of his journeyman status.

Johnson, 28, was drafted by the Ravens in the second round in 1998 but left the team as a free agent after the 2001 season. Johnson has since spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals.

"It's difficult going from one team to another, then to be expected to play when you have to learn an offense," Johnson said of re-signing with the Ravens. "I wanted to go somewhere where I could stick. Bouncing around is not always good. When I left here I really wasn't mature enough to handle situations. I said some things I probably shouldn't have."

His previous tenure with the Ravens was marred by injury and underachievement, two things Johnson hopes will remain in the past. Johnson and Ravens officials also are forgetting about some of the negative comments Johnson directed toward the team near the end of his last season, when he openly said he was planning to leave as a free agent.

"The grass wasn't always greener," Johnson said. "I wound up bouncing around and it looked like I was some sort of journeyman. But those were the situations, and I'm happy to be back here to have some sort of consistency."

What Johnson brings, and the main reason the Ravens invested such a high pick on him to begin with, is speed, which the team lacks in its current receiving corps.

Johnson's speed - he once finished ahead of Carl Lewis in the 100 meters at the 1995 Drake Relays - was one of the first things quarterback Kyle Boller noticed in practice yesterday.

"I threw one pass to him and I was like, `Woo, that guy is fast,' " Boller said.

After a season apiece with the Jaguars and Redskins, Johnson broke his hand during the preseason this year with the Bengals and eventually reached an injury settlement with the team.

Johnson said he was running his consulting company over the past few weeks while waiting for his chance to get back into the NFL.

"It's good to have Patrick back," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It gives us that deep threat that, in conjunction with our running game, hopefully we can stretch the defenses a little bit. We'll see how Patrick is feeling."

Just how the Ravens plan to use Johnson is not yet defined. Randy Hymes, Kevin Johnson and Travis Taylor will remain the top three receivers. Patrick Johnson has 24 catches over the previous two seasons.

"I've learned how to be a possession receiver coming from Jacksonville and playing with Jimmy Smith and being in [Steve] Spurrier's offense [in Washington]," Johnson said. "I know how to be a wide receiver more than a pure deep threat."

Heap has to wait

Taylor and center Mike Flynn practiced yesterday, but tight end Todd Heap remained sidelined with an ankle injury and is a long shot for Sunday's game.

For Flynn, the practice was his most extensive since fracturing his collarbone, as he participated in a handful of snaps during team drills. Flynn had an X-ray taken on his collarbone in the evening, and if all is well, he could be available in a limited capacity for the game at Philadelphia on Oct. 31.

"I don't think he will be released for this week," Billick said. "What the imaging, we believe, will tell us is that he is on target and will be ready to go when we play Philadelphia."

Quarterback Anthony Wright also threw heavily and said he is experiencing no pain in his surgically repaired shoulder.

"I'm ready to go," Wright said.

In defense of Boller

As has been the case this season, Billick defended Boller during his weekly news conference. Billick was asked how he plans to protect Boller from negative commentary from fans and media.

"I tell him not to listen to you all," he said. "That sounds over-simplistic, and I understand it. The whole league is replete with observations. ... I basically just try and keep him at arm's length from it."

Boller said the time off during the bye week should help get him back on track.

"I want to be the quarterback everybody wants me to be," Boller said.

Steelers watch

Billick said he did not get too wrapped up in the final dramatic minutes of the Pittsburgh Steelers' win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, even though he admitted to watching the end of the game.

The Steelers' win gave them a 1 1/2 -game lead over the Ravens in the AFC North.

"It's too early," Billick said. "By nature you root for an NFC team over any AFC team because there is no upside for any AFC team winning in terms of the scope. But we are a long way from getting emotionally drawn into somebody else's game."

End zone

Daniel Wilcox and B.J. Sams will help refurbish a home in Sandtown as part of the Habitat for Humanity program today. ... Joe Maese, Harold Morrow, Bart Scott and Dave Zastudil will teach the second of three sessions for the Ravens' Football 101 program at M&T Bank Stadium. ... Kordell Stewart is visiting the Living Classrooms Educational Facility.

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