Advertisement
News

Minicamp to give Ravens 1st look at revamped roster Off-season efforts on two-week display

With much of their off-season paperwork done and with a productive draft and some promising free-agent signings behind them, the Ravens are eager to get a glimpse of the chemistry they've created this spring.

Starting tomorrow and over the next two weeks, the new-look Ravens will gather for a full minicamp at the team's Owings Mills complex.

Advertisement

"It's exciting. We're anxious to get these guys, this entire squad, on the field together for the first time," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "No. 1, we want to familiarize them with the terminology they're going to be using. We also want to assess their conditioning further. The exciting part is we can see this thing coming together."

About 80 players -- including veterans, all 12 draft picks and a score of rookie free agents -- are expected to report for eight days, consisting of two sessions each of meetings, weightlifting and practices without pads.

Advertisement

Among the most eagerly anticipated arrivals are the new components of the Ravens' rebuilt, 4-3 defense, which was the league's lowest-rated in 1996 and the most glaring weakness of a 4-12 team that finished in the AFC Central Division's basement.

Right defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and right defensive end Michael McCrary, signed as free agents in April, will join the team's top three draft picks -- linebackers Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper and safety Kim Herring -- each of whom has been projected as a starter.

The Ravens are counting on those five to blend in with such veterans as second-year middle linebacker Ray Lewis, cornerback Antonio Langham, safety Stevon Moore and left end Rob Burnett, who is progressing on schedule in his comeback from a season-ending knee injury last October.

They are also banking on the team's youthful linebackers to overcome their mistakes with speed and hustle behind a front four that should be measurably improved, especially if tackle Larry Webster returns next month in good form from his one-year substance-abuse suspension as a capable backup to veteran James Jones.

"I'm as comfortable as I can be with it," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said of his young linebacker corps. "I have no other choice. We've added some proven people up front, and we drafted two great young players to play behind them. When you add Ray to that, we've got three great young players [at linebacker]. That's the hand we've been dealt."

The Ravens have reshuffled their deck dramatically.

Besides Siragusa and McCrary, they have added guard Leo Goeas and safety Rondell Jones through free agency. They traded left tackle Tony Jones to Denver for a second-round draft choice that eventually became Herring. They cut veteran safety Eric Turner -- freeing up $3 million in salary cap funds -- and elected not to sign linebackers Mike Croel, Ed Sutter and Keith Goganious.

They lost veteran center Steve Everitt in a free-agency battle to Philadelphia. Veteran defensive end Anthony Pleasant, who originated with the Cleveland Browns in 1990, has been replaced by McCrary.

Advertisement

Only 18 former Browns are expected at the minicamp.

"It's almost as if we've forgotten about Cleveland," Marchibroda said. "A lot of people who really didn't want to be here are no longer here. There is a Baltimore face on this football team now."

Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel, said, "Back in January, we said there would be about a 30 percent turnover on the roster, and we've done that. It took a lot of effort from a lot of people, and we lost some good football players. But we've added some good ones, too. And we're not done yet."

The early phase of the off-season was marked by misfortune and missteps.

There was the spinal-cord injury in December to promising offensive lineman Herman Arvie. The Ravens released him two months later. And there were the near-miss free-agent signings of Dallas linebacker Broderick Thomas and Cowboys safety Brock Marion.

Thomas had agreed to terms in Baltimore before suddenly returning to Dallas. Marion was minutes away from signing with the Ravens before the team realized he had failed his physical with an injured shoulder.

Advertisement

Then there was the surprising loss of Everitt to the Eagles, who denied the Ravens one of their prized players with an eleventh-hour blitz.

"If there was one part of the off-season when I got frustrated, that was the one," Newsome said. "Steve is a good young player in his prime. We developed him, and he was a big part of what we wanted to do. We just got beat."

Besides Stevon Moore, the Ravens made sure to re-sign two other coveted free agents in wide receiver Michael Jackson and guard Jeff Blackshear. Then they bagged McCrary and Siragusa and produced a highly touted draft.

But, when veteran Wally Williams -- slated to replace Everitt -- went down with a torn Achilles' tendon five weeks ago, that left the Ravens with three healthy starters from last year's strong offensive line in Blackshear and tackles Orlando Brown and Jonathan Ogden.

The offensive line will be a focal point at minicamp. The Ravens are counting on the emergence of two-year backup Quentin Neujahr at center, along with fifth-round draft pick Jeff Mitchell, and they are considering moving Goeas to center, as well.

Look for the Ravens to pursue a center and possibly a veteran guard/tackle after today, when teams throughout the NFL begin cutting veterans for salary-cap reasons. The team has expressed interest in Dallas center Ray Donaldson.

Advertisement

The Ravens are also looking to solidify their tight end position by signing Eric Green, and they would like to add a veteran linebacker, since team sources said third-year outside linebacker Craig Powell is not expected to stick with the team much longer.

"Our depth is suspect," Newsome said. "I knew, Ted knew, Mr. [Art] Modell knew and the coaching staff knew we weren't going to be able to fix this thing in one year. We're making progress. But we've still got a lot of reasons to show up at the office every day. You don't sit back on your laurels until the commissioner hands you the Super Bowl trophy."

Ravens minicamp

When: Tomorrow through Friday; next Monday through June 12.

Where: Owings Mills complex.

Who: Veterans, rookies and free agents.

Advertisement

Note: Minicamp is closed to the public, except for an open practice at Memorial Stadium Thursday evening. Parking and admission are free. Gates will open at 5 p.m., followed by an autograph session at 6: 30 and practice at 7. Fans also can select available season-ticket plans by checking out seat locations.

Pub Date: 6/02/97


Advertisement