Rick Lyle, the Ravens' third-year defensive end out of Missouri, said he will not make the same mistake this week against the Houston Oilers, or ever.
Lyle replaced the ailing Anthony Pleasant (sprained ankle) at right end last week in Pittsburgh. It was the first start of his career, and Lyle, who recorded one tackle, was often in over his head against left tackle John Jackson and tight end Mark Bruener.
With Pleasant still hobbling -- he is questionable for the Oilers game and did not practice yesterday -- Lyle said he is better prepared for what probably will be his second consecutive start.
"The nerves were going pretty good [last Sunday]," Lyle said. "It was my first start, and I was excited and nervous at the same time. It was a matter of not knowing exactly how to prepare. That's not going to happen again. I realize everybody on the second team is one play away from being in there. From now on, no matter what, I'm preparing each week like I'm going to be the starter."
Second-year running back Earnest Hunter also chalked up his critical mistake -- he lost a fumble on the Steelers' goal line -- to a lack of preparation, as well.
It was Hunter's first carry of the season, and his first play from scrimmage of the game.
"I was down on myself. I prayed about it," Hunter said of the fumble, which prevented the Ravens from cutting Pittsburgh's lead to a touchdown with five minutes left. "It was a downfall, but it has to build you up as a person. There's no doubt I've got the ability to play the game at this level. The only question is Earnest from the shoulders up. I'm going to be better prepared, and I'm going out there to have fun, no matter what they ask me to do."
This weekend will be a homecoming of sorts for Hunter. He is from Longview, Texas, about a two-hour drive from Houston. Hunter said he is giving away 48 tickets to family and friends.
No crowds, no problem
Oilers coach Jeff Fisher said the team's lame-duck status and the small crowds that seem to have taken away his team's home-field advantage have not been distractions in Houston's game preparation or performance.
"This situation is not new to our football team. We dealt with it for most of last year and throughout the off-season," Fisher said. "Since May, we knew our immediate future would be in Houston. We also knew quite likely that many fans would elect not to come out and support the team, and that's fine. They have a right to choose.
"Our team knows this. Typically, fans stop coming because the ZTC team is no good. Our football team is getting better, and we feel we're going to contend in the end. This situation is out of our control. Whether there is 14,000, 25,000 or 55,000, it's not going to make a difference to our team. Our goal is to defeat the team on the other sideline."
Anthony Hilliard, the agent for free-agent tight end Johnny Mitchell, whom the Ravens are interested in, said he anticipates some meaningful dialogue with Ravens vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome soon. "Johnny is ready to play some football. I haven't talked to Ozzie in a while, but I made a call to him today and anticipate we'll get together soon," Hilliard said. Ravens linebacker Mike Caldwell and fullback Carwell Gardner practiced yesterday after missing Wednesday's workout with injuries.
Ravens (1-1) vs. Oilers (1-1)
Site: Astrodome, Houston
Time: 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WLIF (101.9 FM), WJFK (1300 AM)
Line: Oilers by 3 1/2
Pub Date: 9/13/96