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Rookies, center get attention Scrimmage vs. Eagles gives Ravens first test

This could be one heck of a coming-out party for Ravens center Quentin Neujahr.

Several thousand fans will attend the Ravens' scrimmage against the Philadelphia Eagles today at Lehigh University, and a lot of eyes will be focused on Neujahr, a third-year player trying to maintain his position as the Ravens' starting center.

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Neujahr, along with inexperienced running backs and linebackers, are high on coach Ted Marchibroda's concerns during the scrimmage. Veteran starters are expected to go 12 plays before giving away to the second team.

Potential rookie starters, such as outside linebackers Cornell Brown and Jamie Sharper and safety Kim Herring, are expected to play anywhere from 24 to 36 of the team's 48 plays.

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And then there is Neujahr.

He has been in the spotlight ever since late April when starting center Wally Williams went down with an Achilles' tendon injury. Williams won't return until around mid-October, but until then Neujahr has to step up or aside.

"It's time for me to show them if I can play or not," he said. "It's that simple. [The Eagles] have some players on their defensive line the caliber of Larry Webster, Tony Siragusa and James Jones. It's an opportunity for me and I'm excited."

Thus far, Neujahr has been impressive in training camp, according to Marchibroda and line coach Kirk Ferentz. But today's scrimmage will be as close to game conditions as the Ravens get until the exhibition opener on Aug. 2 against the New York Giants.

"This scrimmage against another NFL team is an opportunity for us to put into practice what our players have learned in two-a-days at training camp and the earlier minicamps," Marchibroda said.

"It's a step above a regular practice when you work with another NFL team. Plus, both teams will get a preview for our third preseason game at Philadelphia.

"You can't consider some of those guys starters yet because they haven't earned it," Marchibroda said of his rookies.

"This scrimmage is for evaluation under game conditions. I haven't talked to the guys about the importance of this scrimmage because I don't want any undue pressure, but I'm sure they know they have to perform well."

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Sharper hasn't performed extremely well since ending his holdout Tuesday morning. Marchibroda doesn't know how much the Virginia outside linebacker can play, but the second-round pick will play as much as possible.

"I just went through the two-minute offense, and that was 10 plays in a row," Sharper said. "I feel pretty good and I'm getting back in the flow. My legs are sore, so I'm starting to feel like the rest of the guys. I'm anxious and ready to go out and hit someone."

Sharper will join Brown and second-year player Ray Lewis as the starting linebackers.

Defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis will take a hard look at right cornerback, where Donny Brady, DeRon Jenkins and Dorian Brew are competing for the starting position. Also, there is a competitive battle for the starting safety position with Rondell Jones against Herring.

Offensively, Marchibroda is concerned with his fullback situation. Rookie Steve Lee, the team's fourth-round pick out of Indiana, was the clear choice at the beginning of the season but Kenyon Cotton, a free-agent rookie from Southwest Louisiana, has closed the gap.

RTC Lee is more of a physical specimen, but Cotton seems to be more of an athlete.

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"Kenyon has been a little bit of a surprise to us," Marchibroda said. "He has exhibited a lot of toughness. When the veterans came in, he stepped us his game."

The scrimmage will also include nine-on-seven and one-on-one drills. Two veteran starters will not participate -- right offensive tackle Orlando Brown (ankle) and defensive end Rob Burnett (knee). Starting guard Leo Goeas is doubtful with a swollen knee.

Pub Date: 7/26/97


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