These three no-names have game

Ravens' Stone, J. McClain, Greisen largely anonymous but come up big

January 08, 2009|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,

When fans stream into M&T Bank Stadium wearing their Ravens jerseys, you'll see the No. 52 of Ray Lewis everywhere. Todd Heap's No. 86 is a favorite, and so is Ed Reed's No. 20. Even some of Joe Flacco's No. 5 are showing up.

But you can be sure no one will be wearing a purple No. 39. Or No. 53. Or No. 59.

In fact, even identifying the Ravens who wear those numbers would be a challenge for some of the most rabid fans, because those are the jerseys worn by the largely anonymous players who race downfield on special teams or occasionally fill in on defense.

For the record, those numerals belong to safety Daren Stone (No. 39), linebacker Jameel McClain (No. 53) and linebacker Nick Greisen (No. 59). And despite not being household names, each has made large and small contributions that have the Ravens looking to advance in the NFL playoffs Saturday against the Tennessee Titans.

"The coaches do a good job of reminding us of how big our role really is," said Stone, the right-side gunner on punt and kickoff coverage teams who helped down a Ravens punt inside Miami's 5-yard line in Sunday's 27-9 AFC wild-card win over the Dolphins.

"It may not be the most glorified role ... but to our team, it's important," Stone said. "It can make a big difference in getting our offense field position or pinning down the opposition."

McClain, an undrafted free agent who had two special teams tackles Sunday, has also played on defense. He has recorded two safeties this season, one on a sack of Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell and the other on a blocked punt against the Philadelphia Eagles. He also partially blocked a punt against the Washington Redskins.

"The thing that we saw in Jameel is that he has multiple skills," Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "This team is full of guys like that. He's a guy who can rush the passer because he essentially played defensive end in college. But he's athletic enough where he can stand on his two feet and drop and cover. And he is also athletic enough and fast enough to play in space on special teams."

While McClain is a rookie and Stone is in his second season, Greisen is a seven-year veteran with his third NFL team. Last season, when Ray Lewis was injured, Greisen stepped in as a starter for two games. This season, he plays on all four special teams units as well as staying ready in the event of an injury to a starter at linebacker. He's even the backup long snapper.

"It's an old cliche, but as everyone says, you are one play away from being the starter," said Greisen, whose wife, Caroline, had a baby just before the game against the Dolphins. "So I prepare as if I am going to be the starter, but I also understand ... what is going to be my biggest role on Sunday. And I've got to be a leader on special teams with a lot of young guys, and a lot of talented young guys at that, to be able to make sure they're focused and they're ready to do their job."

Greisen, who has 33 career starts with the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and now in his second season with the Ravens, said he tries to be an example to young players of what contributing in all types of ways, even relatively anonymous ones, can do for an NFL career.

"My job is to be like a mentor, to show that here's this guy in his seventh year, that's a long time," Greisen said. "And there has to be a reason he stuck around."

Ravens (12-5) @Titans (13-3)

Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Line: Titans by 3

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