Sapp could hold secret tomorrow

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

But ex-Colt can only help so much

security at M&T will be increased

Ravens & Nfl

January 12, 2007|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

Relegated to a backup role on the football field, Ravens safety Gerome Sapp might be making his most significant contribution while in the classroom.

Sapp, a four-year veteran, had spent the previous two seasons playing for the Indianapolis Colts. The Ravens, who drafted Sapp in 2003, reacquired the former Notre Dame player in a trade in June.

Little did the Ravens and Colts know that Sapp might eventually provide critical information for tomorrow's AFC divisional playoff game between the two teams.

"As far as taking something from Indianapolis and taking it here, I know that when I watch the film, I can say, `OK, [quarterback] Peyton [Manning]'s probably looking at this guy to go here,' and I'm able to reiterate that to some of my teammates," Sapp said. "But I'm sure they're going to change a bunch of things from the film we're watching. Peyton is going to be Peyton at the line and do his thing. It just comes back to us doing what we have done all year and being more disciplined at it."

Sapp's knowledge of the Indianapolis offense could be vital in a matchup that pits the NFL's top-ranked defense in the Ravens against the league's third-ranked offense in the Colts.

As fond as Manning is of bringing the offense to the line of scrimmage and changing the play call to confuse the defense, the Ravens are just as adept at disguising their blitz packages and showing one formation before transforming into another.

Still, for all of Sapp's work in the team's defensive meetings, even he understands that the key to the Ravens' success will be spelled out by what the defense can force the Indianapolis offense into committing.

"The thing about this team is we try to be good at what we do. We're not worried so much about what the other team does," Sapp said. "Obviously, [my teammates] have a couple of questions here or there about the offense and about the defense, but primarily, we've just got to know what we're doing and make sure we're doing that well. Everything else will take care of itself."

Sapp himself could play a bigger role in tomorrow's game. If the Ravens send in their dime package (six defensive backs) to counter the Colts' high-octane passing attack, Sapp would likely play more.

That might be good news for a player who was overtaken in the preseason by rookie Dawan Landry to become the starting strong safety and posted just 12 tackles, two batted passes and a forced fumble during the regular season.

But secondary coach Dennis Thurman said Sapp has handled the demotion and reduced playing time with dignity.

"He's learned the defense, he knows the defense, and he understands what we're trying to get done," Thurman said. "He's been nothing but professional. What a great guy to have in your meeting room."

Security to be increased tomorrow

The Ravens suggested that fans arrive at M&T Bank Stadium earlier than usual tomorrow for the 4:30 p.m. start because lines may move more slowly.

Pat-downs for fans entering the stadium will be more thorough, Ravens officials said.

The more exhaustive search procedures are part of an overall increase in security, and though local passions might be enflamed, the increase in precautions are the norm for the playoffs rather than out of concern for the visiting team, NFL officials said.

"We already have people on the ground working with [security] there," said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. "All postseason games have always gotten a higher level of security attention, but especially so since 9/11."

Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne and Baltimore police spokesman Matt Jablow said security will be bolstered for the AFC divisional playoff game but declined to be specific about numbers of personnel and the details of precautionary measures. Colts officials declined to discuss their security and travel plans.

Camaraderie `out the window'

Linebacker Ray Lewis is the first to say he's a fan of Manning's self-deprecating commercial work, and the two have become fast friends over the years.

But as much as the duo has bonded at Pro Bowls in Hawaii, Lewis said the friendship will be set aside tomorrow.

"I think Peyton, as well as I know him, when you step on the football field, all of that is out the window," Lewis said Tuesday. "I wouldn't be gentle with my brother if he was out there on the football field."

Injury update

Left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (turf toe), right guard Keydrick Vincent (strained groin) and tight end Quinn Sypniewski (wrist) remained questionable for tomorrow's game.

For Indianapolis, seven starters - running back Joseph Addai (chest), linebacker Gary Brackett (ankle), right offensive tackle Ryan Diem (shoulder), cornerback Nick Harper (ankle), left guard Ryan Lilja (knee), defensive end Robert Mathis (hip) and free safety Bob Sanders (knee) - are questionable, but practiced yesterday.

Wide receiver Ricky Proehl (hamstring) was downgraded to out.

End zone

Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley visited the Ravens' practice facility in Owings Mills and was dared by coach Brian Billick to kick a 15-yard field goal. The stakes: $1,000 to a charity of either O'Malley's or Billick's choice. With quarterback Kyle Boller holding, O'Malley - sans suit jacket - split the uprights. ... Running back Jamal Lewis, who played his freshman year at Tennessee with Manning, said recent conversations have focused elsewhere. "He always says he wants a Super Bowl," Lewis said. "[With] all of his accolades and everything, it's the same thing: `You have the Super Bowl ring.' I think he's due one of these days. I just hate we have to meet at this time." ... The team practiced indoors for the third consecutive time this week.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Bill Ordine contributed to this article.

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