As the Ravens try to put the pieces of their broken offensive line back together in time for this week's visit by the torrid Minnesota Vikings, they are also wondering if wide receivers Jermaine Lewis and Michael Jackson will be available.
Jackson has missed the last two games with a sprained left foot. He injured the foot in the first quarter of a 20-13 victory over Cincinnati on Nov. 22.
Jackson, considered questionable for Sunday, has begun to ride an exercise bike.
Lewis also is questionable with a high right ankle sprain. He suffered that injury during the Indianapolis game nine days ago and missed his first game of the season Sunday at Tennessee. He did not sound overly optimistic about returning this week.
"Never say never. I'm off the crutches and walking on it a little better. There's a tear on both sides [of the ankle]," Lewis said. "Hopefully, I can come back for the last two [games]."
James Roe started in Lewis' place and produced two receptions for 33 yards, including a 27-yarder that preceded Floyd Turner's 20-yard touchdown, which cut Tennessee's lead to 16-14 with 1: 46 left.
Turner, who started in Jackson's place, caught two touchdown passes, marking the first time a Ravens receiver had done that in a single game in 1998. Turner has 17 receptions for 316 yards, an 18.6-yard average. He has four touchdown catches, second only to Lewis.
Starks benched again
For the second straight game, the Ravens benched rookie cornerback Duane Starks in favor of third-year man DeRon Jenkins.
Jenkins played the entire second half in Nashville opposite Rod Woodson in the Ravens' base, 4-3 defense. Starks came on the field in nickel situations.
Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said he had not yet decided whether to start Starks or Jenkins against the Vikings, who have one of the league's premier passing attacks and its runaway candidate for Rookie of the Year, wide receiver Randy Moss.
"I haven't gone over that yet with Marvin [Lewis, defensive coordinator]," Marchibroda said. "I'm not quite sure how I will go. You have to give DeRon a lot of credit for bouncing back [from his benching last month]. We also have to wait and see what Minnesota is doing [on film]."
Because of their small builds, both Starks and Jenkins are potential mismatches for Moss, if the Ravens choose not to assign Woodson to the rookie sensation. Starks could have the edge over Jenkins because of his better leaping ability.
Quarterback Jim Harbaugh took a nasty hit after he had run out of bounds on a play that drew no penalty flag. Defensive end Rob Burnett was on his back at one point getting pummeled by Oilers center Mark Stepnoski. Then there was fellow end Michael McCrary, who was thrown to the ground by left guard Bruce Matthews, touching off another melee and offsetting personal foul calls.
Cheap shots and fighting were the orders of the day.
"I think it was a matter of both teams being hyped up and being physical," backup defensive end Keith Washington said. "We had all kinds of skirmishes going on out there. It's a tactical thing a lot of times. You have to play smart, and you can't get sucked into all of that stuff."
McCrary might think twice about trying the move that got him body-slammed by Matthews, WWF style. McCrary tried to leap over Matthews while pass-rushing Steve McNair. Once Matthews got under McCrary's pads, the battle was over. McCrary was suspended in the air for several seconds, before Matthews deposited him on the Vanderbilt Stadium turf.
"The first thing I thought [while he was suspended parallel to the ground] was I guess I didn't make it [over Matthews]. The second thing I thought was when is [Matthews] going to let me down?" McCrary said. "Football is about throwing people around. That's the fun part about football. I put myself in a position to be thrown."
Burnett Man of Year
Burnett has been named the Ravens Man of the Year. He was elected by area fourth- and fifth-graders, a local blue-ribbon panel and the Ravens organization, based on Burnett's interest and active participation in civic and charitable endeavors. The nTC award is the only NFL-sponsored honor that recognizes a player's community service.
Burnett became a national finalist for the NFL Man of the Year, which will be presented at Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami.
As much as Craig Hentrich was on top of his punting game, with a 46.1-yard average on seven attempts, he also was deadly on kickoffs. Four of Hentrich's kickoffs went for touchbacks, negating any effect that return man Corey Harris could have had on the game. Harris never touched the ball. The only kickoff return was recorded by Patrick Johnson, who fumbled on the play, which resulted in no gain. In the first and third quarters, the Ravens have been outscored by their opponents, 156-94. The loss to the Oilers marked the fourth time this season that the Ravens have lost while holding an opponent to fewer than 17 points.
Pub Date: 12/08/98