The Ravens returned to practice yesterday after taking two days off, and the team heads into its bye weekend on a sour note after losing linebacker Mike Caldwell to a knee injury.
Caldwell had arthroscopic surgery yesterday to repair chipped cartilage, and will miss four to six weeks. Caldwell, fourth on the team with 20 tackles and tied for the team lead with two sacks, will be replaced at weak-side linebacker by Jerrol Williams.
Caldwell's loss leaves the Ravens with five linebackers. The team has signed linebacker Dexter Daniels, drafted in the sixth round, to their one-man practice squad. Coach Ted Marchibroda said Daniels could be activated for the New Orleans game on Sept. 29 to add needed depth.
The Ravens also are counting on strong-side linebacker Mike Croel to bounce back from a sprained knee. Croel wore a brace while practicing yesterday.
"We expect Mike to be ready for the New Orleans game," Marchibroda said. "He feels good, and he told me it's just a matter of getting his strength back."
"It causes us to adjust," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "We have Jerrol, who can step in and play. We've got to get Craig Powell ready to play as a backup, and we've got to get [backup middle linebacker] Eddie Sutter ready at another position."
Brady may start
Lewis also said that Donny Brady probably will start in place of Issac Booth at right cornerback against the Saints. Brady and Booth have been sharing time, and their roles will be reversed.
The Ravens have given up six touchdown passes, partly because of the inconsistent play of their cornerbacks, including veteran Antonio Langham on the left side.
In losses to Pittsburgh and Houston, the pass coverage broke down repeatedly, especially on third down and deep in their own territory. The Steelers and Oilers were successful on a combined 15 of 25 third-down attempts.
"I haven't been pleased. As a unit, we've been disappointed in our play," Lewis said. "We've got to do a better job of defending in the red zone and on third down. We have to go back and rely on technique instead of the street fighting mentality we've had lately."
Getting right defensive end Anthony Pleasant back from a sprained ankle would be a big help. Pleasant, who has not played or practiced since early in the season opener, could begin practicing again early next week.
"It's hard to lose a guy with his strength, leadership ability, size and speed," Lewis said. "We had to have somebody rise up quite a bit [behind Pleasant], and we haven't been able to do that."
Hoard on way out?
Running back Leroy Hoard, who lost his starting job to Earnest Byner before the season opener and -- with the exception of a 52-yard rushing performance against the Steelers -- has virtually disappeared from the offense, is wondering about his future with the team.
There is talk that Hoard will be released if the Ravens sign another running back, like former Pittsburgh Steeler Bam Morris.
"The worst part about this whole situation is I have no idea what's going on. Nobody in this organization has told me anything," said Hoard, who did not touch the ball in the 29-13 loss to Houston. "In seven years, I have never dressed and not been involved in a single play. It's insulting.
"It kills me to go home and think that this is what they think of me. I would rather quit than just sit here and decay. But all I can do is do whatever I can to get back into the flow. The worst thing I can do is pout about it. But it's hard to think that this is my seventh year, and this is what my career has turned into."
Time to regroup
Wide receiver Michael Jackson said the team would use the bye week to "find that problem, that little flu bug, treat it, and come out next week with a cure. We're restructuring things, refining things, going back to a training camp mode." Right guard Wally Williams returned to practice after missing the Houston game with a foot injury. The Ravens had hoped to sign free-agent rookie running back Derrick Cullors to their practice squad, but lost him to the New England practice squad yesterday. They also have lost defensive tackle David Barnard to Kansas City's practice squad.
Pub Date: 9/20/96