How crucial is the Ravens' game against the New Orleans Saints this week? It's a huge test in the eyes of veteran running back Earnest Byner.
The Ravens return home to Memorial Stadium to play the 0-4 Saints after losing two straight, to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Oilers. The Ravens' bye week allowed them to think longer about the losing streak. They have been without a victory since Sept. 1, when they opened at home with a 19-14 win over the Oakland Raiders.
On Sunday, the Ravens face an opponent that appears ripe for the whipping. The Saints gave up 267 yards rushing and committed three turnovers at home in a 28-14 loss Sunday to the formerly winless Arizona Cardinals.
The way Byner sees it, that should give the Ravens no false sense of security. Another loss would drop them to 1-3, which would severely damage their playoff hopes.
"I would say this is definitely a must-win for us," Byner said. "We have to look at it as such, or we're selling ourselves and our expectations short.
"We've got to have a sense of fear that this team can beat us. The light -- as far as the type of team people are expecting -- could come on. And we have to make sure that it's our light that shines and not the light for the Saints."
Pleasant back at practice
The Ravens practiced for an hour without pads yesterday, but even a light workout was welcome to right defensive end Anthony Pleasant, who had not practiced since spraining his ankle in the season opener.
Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said Pleasant's status for the New Orleans game -- he is listed as questionable -- will be determined by how much quality practice time he gets this week.
"We received sort of a positive report on Anthony on Sunday. He said he was feeling a little better," Marchibroda said. "He wants to give it a shot to see exactly where he is. We're anxious to get him back."
Break from AFC Central
Beginning Sunday, the Ravens will play five consecutive non-divisional opponents. They will not get another crack at the AFC Central until Nov. 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Six of the Ravens' last eight games are against divisional rivals.
"Right now, our problem is in here," offensive tackle Tony Jones said. "I think by November, our team should be rolling. I don't think Pittsburgh and Houston can step it up any more than they have so far. To me, they can only come down."
Approximately 1,000 tickets remain for Sunday's game, which must sell out by 1 p.m. Thursday to ensure that the contest will not be blacked out on local television. Only 350 tickets are left for the New England Patriots game on Oct. 6.
Pub Date: 9/24/96