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Healing begins for Ravens Battered offensive line could have a new look against Vikings Sunday


One day after the Ravens' 16-14 loss to the Tennessee Oilers, the team began a healing process on the offensive line.

In one of the strangest occurrences of the season, four of the Ravens' offensive linemen were hurt in one game. The team looked as if it were having a hot tub party yesterday.

Coach Ted Marchibroda listed both offensive tackles, Orlando Brown and Jonathan Ogden, as questionable for Sunday's home game against the Minnesota Vikings because of ankle sprains, as well as right guard Jeff Blackshear, who has an abdominal strain. Center Wally Williams might have the best chance of playing with a cervical neck sprain.

"This is the first time I have ever had four go down in one game," Marchibroda said. "We got a little light on the sideline. At one point, Kirk Ferentz [offensive line coach] said, 'Coach, what are we going to do?' I told him to move [tight end] Eric Green in at tackle, but we didn't tell Eric that."

Trainer Bill Tessendorf said: "I have a bad memory, but I don't ever recall anything like this happening."

Williams was injured and left the game during the Ravens' second offensive series. Blackshear went down with 13: 05 left in the game and Ogden followed several minutes later. Brown played the entire game but was on crutches immediately after the contest.

X-rays on Brown were negative, and Ogden is expected to have a bone scan later in the week.

"I'm not worried about keeping the 45-game [starting] streak going," Ogden said. "It all depends on how well I respond to the medicine."

Said Marchibroda: "I think Wally and Blackshear will be all right, -- and both Ogden and Brown will be game-day decisions. But this is the first time conceiveably that we could start the ballgame with several new people."

The injuries will force Marchibroda to do some shuffling on the offensive line. James Atkins, who started the last three games at left guard, will get a lot of practice at left tackle, and Ben Cavil will work at left guard to start off the week. The Ravens probably will activate two players, offensive guard Mike Flynn and tackle Spencer Folau, who were inactive for the Oilers game.

Flynn, 6 feet 3 and 295 pounds, has been inactive for every game but one this season. The 6-5, 300-pound Folau has also been inactive except for one game. He was waived Oct. 28 and re-signed a week later.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

"It was getting close to me and Eric Green playing tackle against the Oilers in the fourth quarter," said reserve tight end Brian Kinchen. "At one point, we have only four heathly offensive linemen and Zeus [Brown] was one of those and he could barely stand because of his ankle. I started going over protection calls with Eric. We were going to be out there with the game on the line."

The offensive line was the unit that was supposed to carry the Ravens this season. Instead, it hasn't played up to expectations and probably has caused Marchibroda his job.

Ravens owner Art Modell has said he will meet with his front office immediately after the season and any new plans would be implemented by late January. The Ravens can finish no better than 8-8, which would not be the "considerable improvement" Modell mandated at the beginning of this season, the third and final year of Marchibroda's contract.

It's possible that the Ravens could fire Marchibroda and offer him a front-office position, but the Ravens have not reached that point and that decision would probably include input from the new coach.

Modell has reconfirmed that the Ravens have not spoken or entered negotiations with any coaching candidates, but a league source said George Seifert has been notified that he will be contacted by the team if or when there is an opening.

Seifert, Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren, Packers offensive coordinators Sherm Lewis, Denver's Gary Kubiak, Minnesota's Brian Billick and Jacksonville's Chris Palmer are hot candidates throughout the league.

But if the Ravens make a change, the league forbids teams to talk with other assistants until after the season of their respective team is completed. But Cleveland, with a new team in 1999, has been granted an exemption by the league and can began soliciting candidates as early as Dec. 29. Kubiak reportedly is high on the Browns' list.

Also, New York Jets defensive coordinator Bill Belichick, a former Browns coach, is a candidate for several jobs and probably would pursue several members of the Ravens' staff if they are let go. Special teams coach Scott O'Brien, strength coach Jerry Simmons, defensive line coach Jacob Burney and quality control/defensive coach Jim Schwartz were on Belichick's staff in Cleveland.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Minnesota Vikings

Site: Ravens stadium

When: Sunday, 4: 15 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Tickets: Sold out

Line: Vikings by 10

Pub Date: 12/08/98

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