If the Ravens are to have substantial success this season, there are several young players, such as linebackers Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper and safety Kim Herring, who must make significant contributions. Another is second-year linebacker Tyrus McCloud.
McCloud, drafted in the fourth round in 1997 out of Louisville, is expected to get ample playing time backing up starting middle linebacker Ray Lewis, and possibly outside linebackers Boulware and Sharper.
The 6-foot-1, 250-pound McCloud played in all 16 games last season and finished with nine tackles. He also was tied for fourth with nine special teams tackles.
"I believe the coach [Ted Marchibroda] was right when he said I could elevate my game two steps," said McCloud. "Last year I was mentally a little shaky, but I feel more comfortable, more relaxed that I can step in there and contribute to the team.
"Right now I'm working on getting my weight down and getting physically fit. I played the outside in college, so there is no major transition. You just line up and once the ball is snapped, you get to the action."
Cotton still a factor
When the team signed Roosevelt Potts in the off-season, he became the team's No. 1 fullback, but the Ravens have a lot of confidence in second-year fullback Kenyon Cotton, too.
Cotton was one of the team's hardest workers in the off-season. Running backs coach Al Lavan hasn't forgotten the progress the 6-0, 255-pound Cotton made as a rookie free agent out of Southwest Louisiana.
Cotton was used sparingly last season on goal-line and short-yardage situations.
"He has improved a lot from last year's camp and it has been a considerable improvement," said Lavan. "He is at the point now where he is gaining more knowledge about the offense itself. We expect good things from him. He has the size, speed and strength to play in this league. Whether or not he can do it has to be proven in training camp."
Webster's wrestling friend
Defensive tackle Larry Webster can't wait until the next World Wrestling Federation card at the Baltimore Arena. Webster will get a chance to renew acquaintances with an old University of Maryland teammate, defensive tackle Darren Drozdov, who is making his rookie debut with the WWF.
Drozdov, who also played briefly with the Denver Broncos, got pinned Monday night on national television. He sported dreadlocks and rings in both nose and ears.
"You always knew he would do something like that," said Webster. "He said he was going to get into that one day, and his forte was always acting. Actually, wrestling may be a little too civilized for Droz."
More running variety
Because the team is running out of the two-back set, the Ravens will use an assortment of running plays this season, such as traps and sweeps. But Marchibroda isn't concerned about the play of his guards, who haven't pulled much in the past two seasons.
Right guard Jeff Blackshear, at 323 pounds, is more power than finesse and the Ravens haven't decided on whether to start Sale Isaia or Ben Cavil at left guard.
"Pulling has always been a part of the offense; we just never used it," said Blackshear. "But this year, we're going to be doing a little bit of everything, more scheme blocking. I don't see it being much of a problem."
"We're not going to be pulling that much," Marchibroda said. "We got a few plays which require that, but we're not a pulling or trapping team."
Marchibroda says he has been impressed with the development of the offense, but still says there is room for improvement.
"With Jim Harbaugh, the offense has not become second nature yet, but we're moving along," said Marchibroda. "We still have a ways to go, but we still got training camp."
Third receiver wanted
Third-year receiver James Roe may have the best pair of hands on the team, but the Ravens still continue to look through free agency for a third receiver to back up starters Michael Jackson and Jermaine Lewis.
Roe appeared in 12 games last season and had seven catches for 124 yards. The criticism of Roe is his lack of speed and ability to get separation from defensive backs. Still, in the games he has played, Roe always manages to get open.
"That doesn't bother me that they're looking for another receiver," said Roe. "I'm here to compete, I'll just keep showing them what I can do. I can't let those kinds of things bring me down. I've had an OK minicamp, but I have to be more patient in my routes and more physical."
An arbitrator has ruled in the Ravens' favor for nullifying the proposed contract of Dallas safety Brock Marion in March 1997. The Ravens and Marion had agreed to a four-year, $8.4-million contract, but the club nullified the deal after discovering that Marion still had a shoulder injury. The Ravens wanted to work out a deal where Marion would be paid the money, depending on certain requirements being met, but Marion wanted the original deal. The grass field and goal posts from Memorial Stadium will be moved to the new stadium Monday, along with furniture for the luxury suites.
Pub Date: 6/10/98