Suggs, Thomas hard to pin down

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Both players doing well as interchangeable parts

Rabach back as a Redskin

August 06, 2005|By Mike Preston and Jamison Hensley | Mike Preston and Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan has a smorgasbord defense. The base is a four-man front, but a lot of the defensive line positions are interchangeable.

Both Terrell Suggs and Adalius Thomas are tweeners, guys who are too big to play outside linebacker and too small to play defensive end.

But don't tell them that.

Together, they have played extremely well in training camp. There has been no major adjustments in playing both positions or learning a new scheme.

Suggs weighs 265 pounds, five pounds above his playing weight of a year ago. There's not much fat on his body.

"I feel good, really good," Suggs said yesterday. "This is the best camp I've had. Last year [as an outside linebacker], they didn't ask me to drop into coverage a lot because AD [Thomas] knew the system better than I did. But now, we both know it. I have a veteran edge because I know the coverages a lot better. I'm getting in a three-point a little bit more than a year ago because I'm playing more defensive end, but I'm still an outside linebacker."

Thomas says the only difference is that linebackers have to drop into coverage more compared to ends. He prefers the linebacker position because it's new.

"I've played at end the last couple of seasons," Thomas said. "Linebacker is new to me even though I played some in college. I like the challenge it brings. It won't be boring."

Rabach's return

Today's scrimmage marks the return of Casey Rabach to M&T Bank Stadium. The former starting center for the Ravens became the first free agent to sign this offseason, reaching a deal with the Washington Redskins at 2:30 a.m., shortly after the free agency signing period began at midnight.

"I couldn't be happier with where I am right now," Rabach said. "It's a great fit for me. If the Ravens had matched the offer, it really would have been a tough decision."

Brown vs. Flynn at center

The Ravens expect rookie center Jason Brown to try to push veteran Mike Flynn for playing time. If that doesn't happen in 2005, he'll spend the season learning both the center and guard positions. The Ravens had Rabach as the swing guard/center last year.

Brown doesn't seem to mind. As a fourth-round draft pick, he'll play anywhere just to make the team. The hardest transformation from college to the NFL is preparation, according to Brown.

"It's the mental part of the game," said Brown. "Most of the guys out here, you already know they're talented. What separates you from everybody else is what you're doing in the film room, if you're learning the play book."

Billick and officials

Ravens coach Brian Billick invited officials to practice yesterday. They seemed like old friends.

But it will be different when the regular season starts.

"Hey, we love each other now, patting each other on the back and hugging each other. But then, during the game, I am going to dog cuss them like I always do. But they do understand."

End zone

Ravens officials said there is still no definitive date for Jamal Lewis' return. The running back is out of a halfway house in Atlanta but has some probation issues to complete before reporting to training camp. ... The Ravens will wait for a clearer prognosis on linebacker Dan Cody before looking for a potential replacement. Cody, who will likely miss the entire season with a severely sprained knee, will be re-evaluated in a few weeks. The team has had a preliminary discussion with the agent for Peter Boulware. ... Starting quarterback Kyle Boller did not throw in the morning practice but did so in the afternoon. "He's been throwing a lot coming into camp so we thought it'd be good just to give him a day off," Billick said. ... Billick will take a cautious approach with his players in the scrimmage. "I imagine anybody who's got any kind of infirmity will probably not go," he said. That means returner B.J. Sams (hamstring) and defensive end Kelly Gregg (elbow) are unlikely to play.

Camp update

Dancing machine: Receiver Randy Hymes caught a 40-yard touchdown pass and followed it with a celebration dance. Hymes celebrates after every touchdown reception. But he didn't celebrate after a 10-yard pass bounced off his chest and fell incomplete. How about a dance after every incomplete pass?

A tough lesson: The Ravens have had a hard time running slants on nickel back Deion Sanders. Sanders knocked down another pass attempt to wide receiver Fred Stamps yesterday. The problem is that Sanders still likes to grab and hold on to players within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. It's illegal, and the Ravens and Sanders paid for it often last season.

Sizzling hot: At this point in the preseason, the defense should be ahead of the offense, but not that far ahead. If the two sides played an actual game, the defense might shut out the offense. Top performers on defense other than Ray Lewis have been ends/outside linebackers Adalius Thomas and Terrell Suggs, safety Ed Reed, cornerback Chris McAlister and tackle Maake Kemoeatu.

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