McAlister's view mostly one-sided

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

With Baxter's emergence, Sanders' arrival, corner stays on one side of field

Pro Football

October 22, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Chris McAlister rattled off a number of reasons as to why he feels Eric Moulds is one of the top five receivers in the game.

"He's a big, physical guy, somebody who you just have to stay in front of," McAlister said of the Buffalo Bills' three-time Pro Bowl player. "He's got the vertical speed to go deep.

"It's going to be a task for whoever gets matched up on Moulds, either myself or [Gary] Baxter."

Moulds is just the kind of player the Ravens would have asked McAlister to face last year. Week after week, McAlister was asked to follow the opposing team's top receiver all over the field.

But with the arrival of Deion Sanders and maturation of Baxter, the Ravens have allowed McAlister to primarily remain on one side regardless of the situation.

McAlister had a run of games last year where he matched up against Rod Smith, Jimmy Smith, Torry Holt, Chris Chambers, Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson. Jimmy Smith was the only one to have more than 38 receiving yards.

Even with Moulds coming to town Sunday, followed by a trip to Philadelphia to face Owens, the Ravens plan on sticking with the strategy they have used all this season.

"A lot of that has to do with the opponent, and a lot of it has to do with Gary, the combination of those two things," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "And on third downs, Deion, that is another reason why it hasn't happened."

Consequently, McAlister's responsibilities are much simpler.

"Gary and Deion both give us the opportunity to keep Chris' world consistent as far as a side goes," Nolan said. "I think a corner likes both. If he's matched on a guy all day or playing one side, that's a good thing. But to do too much of both in one game is sometimes detrimental to one guy."

P. Johnson's role undefined

Receiver Patrick Johnson has three practices under his belt, but he is no closer to figuring out his role on the team, or if he will play Sunday, than he was when he first arrived.

"I don't know anything," Johnson said. "I just have to prepare like I'm going to play. I have to get back into game shape. Whether I play or not, I don't know, but if I get in, it will be cool. If not, that will be cool."

Also on the receiver front, the Ravens upgraded Travis Taylor (groin) from questionable to probable.

R. Lewis encourages Boller

Linebacker Ray Lewis is the latest Raven to offer advice with the hope of keeping quarterback Kyle Boller's spirits up.

"I always try and tell Kyle, there is only one group of people you have to impress, and that is the people in this locker room," Lewis said. "And you don't have to impress us, all you have to do is go out and be Kyle. We've heard this scrutiny before, and I try to give him a quick story about Trent Dilfer. Trent went through the same thing.

"Tony Banks went through the same thing. But you have to stay the course and understand a quarterback won't win or lose a game for you, a team will."

Too late for Prime Time

Sanders is the only player in the Ravens locker room to play baseball professionally, but he has just a passing interest in the dramatic playoff series, both of which went to a Game 7.

For starters, Sanders said the games, which routinely have gone past midnight, are too long.

"I'm not even watching it," said Sanders, who played his first game in the major leagues with the New York Yankees. "They stay on too late. I'm an old man that has to go to sleep and get his rest."

End zone

Bills coach Mike Mularkey spent three years as the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was largely credited with jump-starting Ravens backup quarterback Kordell Stewart's career.

Stewart had his best season in 2001 under Mularkey. The Steelers had the league's best rushing attack and were No. 3 overall in offense.

Mularkey earned his first victory Sunday over the Miami Dolphins, but has had little time to revel in it.

"I'm pulled in different directions," Mularkey said. "More so in the offseason than right now, but still enough now that I can't get into a rhythm. When you're a coordinator, you're not distracted by things. Unfortunately that's part of the business. I'm getting more comfortable with it, nothing has overwhelmed me, and I feel well-prepared for it." ... Former Ravens majority owner Art Modell is among the early nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Modell is on a list with 88 other nominees.

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens (3-2) vs. Buffalo Bills (1-4)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line: Ravens by 6

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