Ravens second-year fullback Tony Vinson has had an interesting spring. In between attending the off-season program to prepare for his second training camp in Baltimore, Vinson walked Washington's halls of political power.
For much of the spring, Vinson spent one to three days a week working as an unpaid intern in the office of Oklahoma Rep. Steve Largent, the former star wide receiver of the Seattle Seahawks, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame two years ago.
Vinson, 27, who graduated from Towson University with a degree in business management, started his internship with such mundane duties as opening mail and answering phones in Largent's office.
But his work has not been limited to clerical responsibilities. Vinson was allowed to sit in on a number of meetings where serious issues were discussed.
"I sat in on meetings with [Largent's] top legislative assistants, I listened to lobbyists, met all kinds of people from different business fields. I saw the way so many things can happen before a congressman reaches a position on how to vote on a bill," Vinson said.
The highlight of Vinson's internship came when the House of Representatives was preparing a floor vote on a proposed amendment drafted by Rep. Frank Riggs, a California Republican. The amendment would have banned all public colleges from using racial or gender preferences in admission policies.
Largent had planned to support the Riggs bill. But after he had a conversation with Vinson, who is part Korean and African-American, Largent changed his position. Vinson told Largent of his education opportunities in high school, and how they were far better than those at other schools where minorities were enrolled.
"I had never been that near the government before, and I never realized how many things a congressman has to do every day," he added. "It changed my opinion of the government, since I actually got to see how things are done. You see why it takes so long for legislation to pass. It was great to be part of the whole process."
Vinson has since refocused his sights in his second year with the Ravens. Other than a nagging hamstring injury that kept him out of three games in 1997, Vinson enjoyed a productive season on special teams. He tied for fourth on the team with nine special teams tackles.
The Ravens have added another punter to their roster in Kyle Richardson, who will challenge incumbent Greg Montgomery. Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda thought Montgomery was inconsistent last season, and Montgomery agrees.
Montgomery averaged 42.7 yards a punt last season.
"The old man likes it," said Montgomery of the competition. "There's nothing wrong with it; it makes you step up your game a little. I guess I would give myself a C-plus last year. I started out slow last season after having a battle with depression, but I had a better second half. I've been up here working out for the last couple of months and I'm in better shape than I'm usually in at this time."
Yesterday, owner Art Modell launched "Team Read '98 with the Baltimore Ravens," a program that offers area children the opportunity to win prizes from the Ravens for reading during the summer.
The program, held in conjunction with the Enoch Pratt Free Library, will run from June 8 to Aug. 8.
For every book a child reads from a selected list, he or she will be awarded a player card bookmark featuring a different Ravens player. The bookmark includes a player's stats and several childhood reading preferences (linebacker Peter Boulware's favorite childhood book is Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham").
The players featured on the bookmarks are Boulware, Jim Harbaugh, Eric Zeier, Michael Jackson, Jonathan Ogden, Jamie Sharper, Kim Herring, Rob Burnett and James Jones.
Those interested in signing up for the program should contact the Enoch Pratt Free Library at 410-396-5494.
Originals down to 12
As the Ravens head into their third year, the face of the team continues to change, and the number of former Cleveland Browns continues to dwindle.
With the release of quarterback Vinny Testaverde, 12 players remain from the original group that moved here in the spring of 1996.
They are kicker Matt Stover, quarterback Eric Zeier, safeties Stevon Moore and Bennie Thompson, cornerback Donny Brady, offensive linemen Wally Williams, Sale Isaia and Orlando Brown, wide receiver Michael Jackson, tight end Brian Kinchen and defensive linemen Mike Frederick and Rob Burnett.
"Sure, we notice it. We're the first ones to notice that kind of thing," said Burnett, an eight-year veteran who was drafted by Cleveland in 1990. "Hey, it's a business. I learned that lesson in my first training camp. One day I'm having breakfast with a group of guys I'm becoming friends with. The next day, they're all gone."
Calling all mascots
The Ravens will conduct mascot tryouts on June 14 at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel. Males and females age 18 and older are welcome. Registration begins at 8 a.m.
Previous character performance experience is preferred. For a tryout information packet, contact Allyson Yospe in the Ravens' marketing department at 410-547-8100.
Pub Date: 6/05/98