He gets hit as often as any player on the field. Twelve games into his first full season and more than two months into his position as full-time tailback, Priest Holmes is holding his own physically.
Holmes, the second-year player out of Texas who originally made the Ravens' roster as a rookie free agent, has put together back-to-back games of more than 100 yards rushing. He leads the Ravens with 793 yards and has all five of their rushing touchdowns. With four games left in the season, he needs 207 yards to become the first 1,000-yard rusher in Ravens history.
He also is beaten up, but not too badly considering the pounding he has absorbed since taking over at tailback on Sept. 27 against Cincinnati.
"I'm holding up, just dealing with the everyday nicks and bruises," Holmes said. "I used to be sore on Mondays after playing on special teams. I'm still sore, it's just a different kind of sore.
"Once the game gets going, I get stronger. I've always been that type of back."
Holmes has been extremely active since taking the starting job. He has carried the ball 175 times, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He is second on the team with 34 receptions and would pass the injured Jermaine Lewis for the team lead with three catches against Tennessee on Sunday.
Holmes, who has touched the ball an average of 23 times a game, ranks 13th in the AFC in rushing, and ninth in the conference with 1,001 yards from scrimmage.
In the first meeting with Tennessee, the Oilers held Holmes to 29 yards rushing.
Reserve Kopp injured
The Ravens have lost recentlyacquired reserve linebacker Jeff Kopp for at least two weeks to a knee injury he suffered in Wednesday's practice.
Kopp tore cartilage in his right knee in a non-contact injury. He had arthroscopic surgery yesterday.
Kopp, 6 feet 3, 244 pounds, a four-year veteran out of USC, signed with the Ravens on Oct. 28. He has recorded four special teams tackles.
"It's a day-to-day thing," team doctor Claude T. Moorman said. "The best-case scenario is [Kopp would return for] the Chicago game [on Dec. 20]."
In the meantime, the Ravens are considering promoting rookie linebacker Brad Jackson from the practice squad.
Offensive line coach Kirk Ferentz got off the practice field in a hurry yesterday with important business on his mind. Within 30 minutes of the conclusion of practice, Ferentz was headed to catch a plane to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, then make a short drive to Iowa City, where he was introduced last night as the new head coach at Iowa.
Ferentz signed a five-year contract worth about $3 million.
Ravens offensive linemen Orlando Brown and Wally Williams have known Ferentz since he joined the Cleveland Browns in 1993. Brown and Williams were undrafted free agents out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Ferentz has been the central coaching figure in their professional lives.
"I hate to see [Ferentz] go, but I understand the move he has to make," Brown said. "He's been with me for six years. I needed a lot of work. I was raw. He taught me a lot, on and off the field. If I had any problems, I could come and holler at him. I'm going to miss him."
Rhett's special assignment
Running back Errict Rhett would prefer to get noticed in the Ravens' offensive backfield. But he'd rather play on special teams than not at all.
Rhett, playing on the kickoff coverage team last week, recorded a special teams tackle against the Colts. Rhett said he cannot remember playing on special teams before in his five-year pro career.
It has been a disappointing year for Rhett, who started the season's first two games, got benched and has since become a spectator. He has rushed for just 164 yards and produced another 48 yards as a receiver.
"I'd rather be a part of this offense, but I'm just going to be the best player [the Ravens] let me be. They can't keep a thoroughbred in the barn," Rhett said. "If you're aggressive, you're going to be good on special teams. If I'm going down the field for 60 yards at full speed, I don't think there's a wedge I can't break through."
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Tennessee Oilers
Site: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
When: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)
Line: Oilers by 6
Pub Date: 12/04/98