Hardly a standout, T. Taylor sits down

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Despite being healthy, much-maligned receiver was inactive vs. Steelers

December 28, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The often-criticized career of Ravens receiver Travis Taylor bottomed out Sunday.

While Taylor has been ripped for not living up to his status as a first-round pick when he is on the field, the fifth-year player never got a chance to get that far against the Pittsburgh Steelers as he watched the game from the sidelines as a healthy inactive.

It was the first time an uninjured Taylor was not on the 45-man roster for a game, and it could spell the end of his time with the Ravens, one in which he never lived up to the dynamic play he showcased at Florida.

Randy Hymes started in place of Taylor, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

"We've talked many times about going from 53 to 45 and how that pains me getting the right people up," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Randy Hymes has worked his butt off and did nothing not to be part of the 45 before. It's just because of injuries, because of depth, the profile we're in."

Hymes responded with a four-catch, 55-yard showing, leading the Ravens in both categories. Hymes was the leading receiver through most of the first half of the season but was inactive the two previous games.

Billick felt compelled to get Hymes, who has had success against the Steelers (two big catches for 76 yards in 2002), back on the field.

"Randy had a great couple of weeks of practice," Billick said. "He has had a lot of energy. This last week in particular, his legs were fresh. We needed that fresh set of legs going into the Pittsburgh game, and I think you saw the outcome from it. It was great to have him up."

As for Taylor, chances are he will still lead the team in receiving yards at the end of the season even if he is not active for Sunday's regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins. That number rests at 421 yards, which would be his lowest output since his rookie season.

"Travis did nothing to not be up on the 45," Billick said. "Now clearly, Travis is not 100 percent healthy. No one really is. But he hasn't really been healthy all year long. In this case, Randy's fresh legs, what Randy brings in terms of some of the plays he can make just seemed like a better fit for us than dealing with some of the things Travis is dealing with. So we chose to put him up."

Heap limping

Tight end Todd Heap sported a slight limp around the locker room yesterday and will use all this week to decide whether to play against the Dolphins.

Heap hurt his ankle in the first half against the Steelers but was able to return. Heap, Deion Sanders (foot) and Jamal Lewis (ankle) might all be listed as questionable when the injury report comes out tomorrow.

"We will be a lot like last week and [will not] be doing a lot [physically] during the course of the week," Billick said. "I've got to be certain that they are physically cleared and cannot damage themselves further. The doctors have to tell us that they are not at risk at that point because we're not going to do anything silly."

Tackling is issue

Coming off perhaps their worst tackling performance of the season, the Ravens are relatively powerless to address the situation.

The team has not practiced in pads in weeks and will not when it reconvenes tomorrow.

"I can't all of a sudden throw them back in pads and say, `OK guys, we're going to beat each other this week to make sure we get fundamentally sound in tackling.' You can't do it," Billick said. "All you can do is work on fundamentals in terms of body positioning. One of the things we constantly stress, even in shorts, is being in a tackling position."

Pittsburgh rushed for 183 yards Sunday.

Finishing kick

The Ravens are hoping they have built up enough good karma over the years.

When they have clinched berths early in two of their three playoffs seasons, the Ravens have played a meaningless final game the same as it would have if the playoffs were on the line. Starters did not rest, and the Ravens will need the Steelers and Indianapolis Colts, teams that have locked up their playoff position, to adopt the same philosophy against the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos, respectively.

"We've been in that situation one, two or three times now, and the way we've approached the last game has been clear cut," Billick said. "I don't know how you address a team and say, `OK, you guys need to rest. You [other] guys go fight like hell and win this game.' Now if you are injured and can't go, that's one thing.

"They're going to play, be competitive and want to win. I have no doubt about that."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Miami Dolphins (4-11) vs. Ravens (8-7)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line: Ravens by 9 1/2

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