As a free-agent wide receiver, Curtis Brown sees the crowded Baltimore Ravens roster clearly.
Veterans Andre Rison, Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander are established. The Ravens drafted Jermaine Lewis and James Roe in the fifth and sixth rounds in April, and Ray Ethridge has a year behind him, albeit on the practice squad.
That leaves Brown with some hurdles to overcome.
"I have no problem with that," said Brown, who winds up his two-week rookie orientation on Friday. "That's what this is all about, trying to win a job. I love to compete."
Brown can back up that claim. First of all, he made a name for himself at Alabama in the talent-rich Southeastern Conference, where he recorded 106 career receptions for 1,568 yards. Over his final two seasons, Brown, 6 feet 2, 185 pounds, led the Crimson Tide in receiving -- after missing the 1993 season while rehabilitating his left knee. Brown tore his anterior cruciate ligament that summer in a pickup basketball game.
The injury may have shaved enough of Brown's speed to prevent him from being drafted, but it never stopped him from competing.
Brown attributes some of his competitive streak to his uncle, former NFL receiver Charlie Brown, who has shown up to watch Curtis work out several times in Owings Mills.
"He never feared anyone," Curtis said of his uncle, whom he speaks with several times a week. "He licked his chops when he went up against defensive backs who were considered to be the best. He taught me that perfect practice makes perfect."
Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said Brown's work ethic has stuck out already.
"He catches the ball well every day. He runs every play out. He makes an all-out effort on every pass, and he's willing to learn," Marchibroda said. "He's the same guy in practice every day. He's the type of kid who catches your eye."
Zeier gets tips on footwork
No player has caught Marchibroda's eye more than second-year quarterback Eric Zeier, who will back up Vinny Testaverde. Zeier started in place of Testaverde four times last year, and performed like most rookies do -- inconsistently and without much confidence.
Marchibroda said Zeier made some strides when he practiced last week with a small group of veterans who have drifted in and out of Owings Mills this month.
"He threw the ball much better this past week than he did the previous two weeks [at the veteran minicamp]," said Marchibroda, who worked primarily on Zeier's footwork.
"He was dropping back and putting himself off-balance, then he had to regain it before he threw. He still has a ways to go, but he has a fine rhythm now," Marchibroda said.
It's official. The Ravens, who had hoped to see first-round pick Ray Lewis this week, will not see the unsigned rookie linebacker until next month's training camp. "It would have been good for him to be here, but he'll catch up," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. . . . Free-agent running back Gary Brown will visit the Ravens today.
Pub Date: 6/12/96