ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- In their continuing attempt to upgrade the offensive backfield, the Ravens are considering running back Vaughn Hebron, who was waived earlier this week by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, Hebron's agent, spoke yesterday with Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel.
"I've got interest, but I would have to study him a lot further," Newsome said.
Hebron, a Cardinal Gibbons graduate who originally signed with the Eagles as a free agent out of Virginia Tech in 1993, is coming back from reconstructive knee surgery that forced him to miss the 1995 season.
During the preseason, including the opener in Baltimore three weeks ago, Hebron showed some of the speed and shifty moves that landed him in the NFL.
Fitzpatrick said the Green Bay Packers, in search of a breakaway threat, have expressed the strongest initial interest in Hebron. The New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams also have called.
"He's a guy with good cutting ability who can get outside," Fitzpatrick said. "He ran well against Baltimore. I think they need to take a look at him."
Hebron could be a bargain wherever he goes. He was due to make $210,000 this season, and Fitzpatrick said he may be forced to play for the three-year minimum salary of $196,000, since he is coming off a serious injury.
"Everybody around the league is sort of in transit this weekend with their last preseason games," Fitzpatrick said. "We'll see what happens on Monday after the final cuts."
Ravens safety Bennie Thompson might start for several teams in the NFL, but he is content here with being the special teams ace.
Thompson had three tackles last night while only playing a half.
"I want to stick with what got me here," Thompson said of his special teams role.
"But I just let people know that I'm more than a special teams guy. I want Marvin Lewis [defensive coordinator] and Al Reynolds [secondary coach] to know that I can work it back there."
Free and clear
Ravens punt returner Jermaine Lewis says punt coverage can break down so fast that last night he didn't even know he juked Gabe Northern to break open his 83-yard touchdown run on a punt return.
"I did, 'wow,' " said Lewis. "All I knew was that it was me one-on-one with the punter, and once I got past him, I turned on the speed to score."
Ravens tackle Orlando Brown tried to hide his smile, but he had to flash it when a reporter walked up to him and gave him a baseball umpire's heave-ho for being ejected from the game.
Brown got tossed from the game with 5: 32 remaining after a fight.
"I'm not talking about it," said Brown.
Left offensive tackle Tony Jones did, though.
"I told Orlando he shouldn't risk breaking his hand in the preseason," said Jones. "But in this league you have to protect yourself, and Orlando is definitely going to protect himself."
It didn't take receiver Michael Jackson long to show that his slight knee sprain is behind him. Jackson, who played sparingly against Green Bay last week, returned to his customary starting role with a flourish.
In the first half, Jackson caught five Vinny Testaverde passes for 98 yards, including a 14-yarder that accounted for the Ravens' first touchdown early in the second quarter.
On the Ravens' second possession, he beat cornerback Ken Irvin badly down the left sideline for 37 yards. On the next drive, he caught a 19-yarder to help set up the Ravens' first score, a 37-yard field goal by Matt Stover late in the first period.
"The best thing for a receiver is to get one early," Jackson said. "I'm holding up, can't complain. The knee is OK, as good as can be expected coming out of preseason."
The knee looked fine four minutes into the second quarter when he beat cornerback Thomas Smith on a slant-in for the 14-yard score.
Another receiver, Ray Ethridge, secured his spot on the team with his third straight excellent game. Ethridge caught three passes for 105 yards.
Modell speaks out
Although it came as a shock to Browns fans, Ravens owner Art Modell says he gave plenty of notice to officials in Cleveland and Ohio that he was planning to move his team.
"I had to make a decision that was long in coming," Modell said in an interview published in the September issue of Cleveland Magazine.
"I gave them [political leaders] every chance, and they end up vilifying me, my name, a good name, a name known internationally. . . covering up their own rear ends for their incompetence and ineptitude."
Modell says he does not deserve the harsh, unrelenting criticism he has received from Browns fans. But, he said, he realizes they are frustrated as Cleveland faces a season without football.
"I have no resentment toward the Cleveland Browns fans whatsoever," he said. "I understand their feelings, I understand their emotions, I understand their displeasure."
Asked for his thoughts on big-money sports deals, Modell said the cost is worth it to have a professional team.
"It's a great social common denominator," he said. "It has a tremendous binding effect on the public. That's worth an incalculable amount of money to a community, aside from the economic benefit, direct and indirect.
"But the pride and the presence of a professional football team is far more important than 30 libraries, and I say that with all due respect to the learning process."
Pub Date: 8/24/96