Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said it is unlikely injured offensive tackles Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Brown will start Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings, but right guard Jeff Blackshear is expected to play and a decision on center Wally Williams will be made at game time.
Neither Ogden nor Brown, both with severe ankle sprains, worked out with the team in practice yesterday, and both were walking with noticeable limps. Williams, with a sprained neck, didn't practice either, but Blackshear (abdominal strain) went through the initial walk-through at the beginning of practice with the rest of the team.
In the past, Ogden and Brown have played despite considerable pain. All four players were hurt in Sunday's game against the Tennessee Oilers. Thursday is usually the Ravens' toughest practice day of the week.
"Nothing has changed much," said Marchibroda. "We're in the middle of the week, and neither Jonathan or Orlando practiced. I don't expect either of them to start, but hopefully they would be available as backups."
If Brown, Ogden and Williams can't play, then the most glaring weakness would be at right tackle. Ogden's replacement, James Atkins, has plenty of experience and Jeff Mitchell, who would fill in for Williams, was the starting center at the beginning of the season. But Brown's replacement would be Spencer Folau, with tight end Eric Green also available to fill in.
Folau, 6 feet 5 and 300 pounds, has been inactive in all but one game this season and was waived by the Ravens on Oct. 28, but re-signed a week later. He has yet to play a down on the offensive line this season. His major contributions have been on the field-goal team.
"I've been thinking about starting since last Sunday afternoon, and a lot of thoughts have been going through my head," said Folau. "Zeus [Brown] and Blackshear are the toughest guys I know, and they might be ready. But I'm prepared and I've really focused this week."
The Ravens thought Green might be pressed into action as a tackle against the Oilers, and Green said he is ready for the challenge. He is probably the best blocking tight end in the NFL. He points out that former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Larry Brown once was a tight end. Green will get some work at tackle in practice today.
"I haven't played tackle since little league," said Green. "But after three more years at tight end, I think I can be a quality right tackle on somebody's team. As a free agent when I left Pittsburgh, the New York Jets wanted to sign me as a tackle.
"I took it as a compliment that the coaches were going to ask me to move to tackle last week."
UCLA coach Bob Toledo has been rumored to be one of the leading candidates to replace Marchibroda if the Ravens fire him at the end of the season, but if the Ravens want to make a move, they'd better do it quickly.
Toledo may be at UCLA for quite a few more years.
"I've had no contact with the Ravens, and I don't expect to have any," said Peter Dalis, Bruins athletic director. "We're in the process of restructuring his contract, so I doubt if he is going anywhere."
Readying the secondary
The Ravens are apparently gearing up for Minnesota's No. 2-ranked passing attack with all the athleticism they can muster.
First, the team inserted third-year player Ralph Staten at free safety for Corey Harris. Then the Ravens decided against starting DeRon Jenkins at cornerback for rookie Duane Starks. Even though Jenkins has played well the past three weeks, Starks is considered to have more athletic ability and probably has a better vertical leap to make plays against receivers Randy Moss and Cris Carter.
Carter has 57 receptions for 821 yards and nine touchdowns, and Moss has 55 catches for 1,120 yards and 14 touchdowns.
"I'm not concerned about the hype," Starks said of his meeting with Moss, another rookie. "He is not the only receiver we're worried about. They got Cris Carter, too. I'm not making a big deal of it, and I'm sure he isn't. But I definitely like the challenge. The way I look at it, this game can only make me, not break me."
The Ravens put running back Jay Graham (knee) on the injured reserve list yesterday. Receiver Michael Jackson, bothered by a foot injury, should be ready for the Vikings game, but fellow receiver Jermaine Lewis is still doubtful. The Ravens -- will use either fullbacks Kenyon Cotton or Roosevelt Potts as the No. 3 running back.
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: 12/11/98