Ravens ready for final set of visits

April 19, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

The Ravens are wrapping up one of the last phases of draft preparation, entertaining the final crop of college players at their training complex this week.

Team officials will bring up past brushes with the law. They will ask about major injuries. They will even want to discuss frequent flier miles.

"When I sit and talk with a prospective draftee, I will ask what teams he has visited and what teams he plans on visiting," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I then have that as information."

Pre-draft visits mark the final step in the evaluation process and one last shot at gamesmanship among NFL teams. Whether or not they admit it like Newsome, every league executive keeps track of the players other teams are bringing to their facilities in order to gauge draft strategies.

But many teams try to use these visits as subterfuge leading up to the draft, which is set for April 29-30.

Some won't invite the players they really covet, while others fly in prospects they have no interest in drafting.

"This time of the year, people do things for a lot of different reasons," Newsome said.

The six first-round prospects who have had visits with the Ravens are: Tennessee safety Jason Allen, Florida State nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley, Florida State cornerback Antonio Cromartie, Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, Florida State outside linebacker Ernie Sims and Texas quarterback Vince Young.

It's not surprising that the Ravens have talked with Bunkley and Sims, both of whom have character issues.

"If there are some questions - whether it's character or something else - you have the chance to sit them down, look them eye to eye and let them explain themselves," Newsome said.

Bunkley was arrested in January 2003 in connection with the theft of a video game. After paying a fine, he served 16 hours of community service.

Sims was arrested in June 2005 after a fight with his live-in girlfriend, who refused to press charges. He pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct.

Although the visits don't include workouts, teams have another opportunity to check out any lingering medical questions.

That could be the reason the Ravens invited Allen (season-ending dislocated hip last year), Cromartie (season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament last summer) and Ngata (torn ACL in 2003) to their training facility.

"There could be some medical issues that happened at the combine that could have resolved themselves at this point," Newsome said.

Newsome warned about reading too much into which players have visited the Ravens.

Two players who could be drafted by the Ravens in the first round - highly coveted Texas safety Michael Huff and rising Southern California offensive tackle Winston Justice - are not expected to meet with the team.

"With the advent of the combine and the opportunities to interview them there, we sometimes don't think it's necessary to bring them in," Newsome said. "We think we have all of our questions answered [with some players]."

Other players who have met with the Ravens or have visits scheduled are: Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens, Fresno State cornerback Richard Marshall, USC guard Fred Matua, North Carolina State defensive tackle John McCargo, Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and Penn State cornerback Alan Zemaitis.

NOTE -- The Ravens announced that they will begin training camp July 30. It will be held at Westminster's McDaniel College for the 11th straight season.jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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