Ravens injuries prompt rush Unemployed linemen contact team hoping for chance at signing

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Ravens vice president of football personnel Ozzie Newsome flew home from Indianapolis on Sunday night, slept three hours and then walked into his Owings Mills complex office to find his voice mail already full.

The Ravens had not posted any help wanted signs for defensive linemen, but it seemed as if everyone who ever picked up a football wanted to apply.

"I think every defensive lineman in the NFL has called me this morning," said Newsome.

The Ravens lost two starting defensive linemen for most of the season in a 26- 21 loss to the Colts on Sunday night.

Starting defensive tackle Dan Footman had surgery on his fractured right forearm yesterday, and may return by the end of the season, Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said.

Starting defensive end Rob Burnett, the team's most consistent lineman this season, had an MRI yesterday which revealed ligament damage in his right knee, and he is out for the season.

Footman was injured on the game's first play while trying to tackle Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh, and Burnett was carted off with 12: 09 left in the half.

"We had four sacks against the Colts, two less than we had for the season. We got a great effort from the defensive line," said Marchibroda. "We took one step forward, but two backwards."

The injuries left the Ravens with only five healthy defensive linemen on the roster -- Anthony Pleasant, Tim Goad, Mike Frederick, Elliott Fortune and James Jones -- and several options to pursue.

One was to sign one or two defensive linemen. Another was to stay in their present situation until next week and a third was to switch defensive schemes from a 4-3 to a 3-4.

"I think we'll sit down Wednesday, make a final assessment and see what is best for this football team," said Newsome.

Signing free agents could be a problem for the Ravens, who are only $20,000 under the salary cap and already have $5,245,000 against the cap next season because of accelerated signing bonuses of four players who have been waived.

"You also have to determine how soon you would be able to get somebody ready to play, especially in our system," said Newsome. "Next is what kind of game condition are they in and how much cap money do you have? Right now, we don't have much."

The Ravens also were awaiting word on defensive end Rick Lyle yesterday. Lyle started two games this season in place of Pleasant before fracturing his left fibula on Sept. 15 against Houston.

"If Lyle can go, then the picture changes," said Marchibroda. "If he can't, then there is the possibility we might bring somebody in."

Changing from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense is intriguing. The change might disrupt some teams, but the effect wouldn't be as drastic for the Ravens.

Defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis coached the linebackers in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 3-4 defense for years, and Ravens starting outside linebackers Mike Croel and Jerrol Williams previouslystarred in the scheme with the Broncos and Steelers, respectively.

"The 3-4 defense gives you more options, the ability to move around and play more tricks," said Marchibroda.

Whatever course the Ravens take, it will have to be done soon, with John Elway and the Denver Broncos scheduled for Sunday.

Against the Colts, the Ravens came close to winning the grudge match of the two cities.

The Ravens' final scoring opportunity started at their 20 with 2: 09 left in the game, but they could only gain 19 yards.

On first-and-10 at their 39, running back Earnest Byner dropped a short pass over the middle. On the next play, Michael Jackson's 9-yard catch along the left side line was nullified because he stepped out of bounds before the reception.

On the next play, wide receiver Derrick Alexander dropped a pass that hit off his hands and shoulder pads that would have given the Ravens possession near the Colts' 20.

Despite the loss, Marchibroda said the Ravens may have come together as a team.

They out-hustled and outhit Indianapolis, but just didn't make the right plays at the right time.

"If you play hard, then that's all you can ask," said Marchibroda. "I saw a lot of players working hard and a lot of our players hurt from the loss. It was a good sign."

"I know we have some players hurt, but if all 46 are going hard all the time, it doesn't matter who is playing next to you," he said.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Denver Broncos Site: Mile High Stadium, Denver When: Sunday, 4 p.m. TV: Channel 11 Line: Broncos by 10

Pub Date: 10/15/96

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