Demps relieved

tear only partial

Quicker comeback should aid Raven's price as free agent

November 30, 2005|By BRENT JONES | BRENT JONES,SUN REPORTER

Will Demps' emotions - according to those friendly with the Ravens safety - went from stunned on Sunday to depressed on Monday to relieved yesterday. Extraordinarily relieved.

After a number of examinations, opinions and prognostications the past two days, it appears Demps' knee injury may not be as serious as it originally looked. Demps likely has a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, an injury that could take six months to heal. Had it been completely torn, Demps may have missed all of next season.

As it stands, Demps could be running by May and, if all goes well, ready for training camp by late July. It also means Demps will not be shut out when he becomes a free agent in March.

"He's rather lucky that it wasn't completely torn," said Tony Agnone, Demps' agent. "It's a partial reconstruction.

"Had it been a bad tear, there would have been some concern."

Demps, who was unavailable to comment yesterday, hurt the knee trying to tackle receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh during the Ravens' loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Demps brought down Houshmandzadeh by the face mask after sprinting across the field, then twisted his leg awkwardly on the turf.

Trainers had to carry Demps to the sideline, and he was on crutches after the game. Chad Williams replaced Demps, but sources said the coaches are considering moving cornerback Chris McAlister to safety, especially if Ed Reed's high ankle sprain keeps him sidelined Sunday against the Houston Texans.

As for Demps, part of his early depression had to come from what looked to be a major hit to his pending free-agent status. A starter for most of his four seasons, Demps appeared to be in line for a decent payday, either with the Ravens or another team.

Though it worked out to be a best-case scenario, the injury has muddled his bargaining power. Reed will be in the final year of his contract next season, and the Ravens have signed McAlister and fellow cornerback Samari Rolle to lucrative deals.

There may not be enough money to go around for Demps, who has taken more snaps on special teams and defense than any other Ravens player the past three seasons. Management's stand is that the injury will not be a major deterrent.

"From our standpoint, we have had success ... [receiver] Michael Jackson played without an ACL, and [tight end] Brian Kinchen," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Jamal [Lewis] came back from two. It doesn't impact us. We know the player. We know his work ethic. We know the type of person he is because we've had him four years."

Demps is not alone. The Green Bay Packers' Ahman Green is in the same situation. Green tore up his leg earlier this season, something that will drop his stock substantially in an already flooded running back market.

Both players and their representatives could point to former Ravens receiver Brandon Stokley, who received a good contract despite a season-ending injury. Stokley, after needing foot surgery early in 2003, persuaded the Indianapolis Colts to take a chance on him even though the injury lingered into that season.

With the Ravens attempting to re-sign Stokley for the minimum, the Colts made a better offer, and it paid off tremendously last year when Stokley topped 1,000 receiving yards. It will be something the Ravens keep in mind in dealing with Demps.

"You have to take into account the injury with Brandon Stokley and the chance Indy took on him and how that's paid off," Newsome said.

Of course, Stokley had the pedigree of being a fourth-round pick, while Demps entered the league an undrafted free agent. But Demps had been one of the most dependable Ravens, teaming with Williams as the only players in the secondary not to have missed a game the past three seasons.

"Will deserves better, but life's not fair," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That's unfortunate. His whole career has been of him overcoming long odds, and this is another set of long odds for Will to have to deal with."

The odds, though, are not as long as originally feared.

"He came in as a free agent, so therefore he has lived and died for four years, and now is the opportunity to make some money," Agnone said. "And he will."

brent.jones@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

Texans@Ravens Sunday, 1 p.m., Ch. 13, 1300 AM, 102.7 FM Line: Ravens by 7 1/2

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