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Healthy again, Jackson playing catch-up Receiver's days as Raven may be winding down


It has been an unusually quiet season for Ravens wide receiver Michael Jackson. With only 27 catches to his credit in 1998, Jackson was absent for much of the season's first 11 games. Then came the sprained left foot he suffered against Cincinnati on Nov. 22.

Jackson was inactive for the next two weeks. He dressed for Sunday's 38-28 loss to Minnesota, but did not play.

Jackson finally will start on Sunday in Chicago. He practiced with the first team yesterday.

When asked if he could salvage something in what has evolved " into a frustrating season, Jackson said: "I'm not trying to salvage anything. I'm just doing what I've been asked to do. I'll play this like I play any other game."

Jackson is tied for fifth on the team in receptions and is fourth in receiving yards with 463. He is the only receiver besides backup tight end Brian Kinchen not to catch a touchdown pass this year. Backup receiver Floyd Turner has more touchdown receptions (five) and as many in his past nine quarters of play (four) as Jackson has in his past two seasons.

Jackson, who had a career-high 14 touchdown catches in 1996, hinted that the offensive system is partly to blame for his lack of productivity.

"I used to know how to ride a bike, but now I don't even have a bike to ride," he said. "If I want to go to the store now, I've got to walk."

The Ravens are not expected to pick up Jackson's $2.7 million option for the 1999 season.

J. Lewis has setback

Jermaine Lewis was hoping to return for the Chicago game after missing two weeks with a sprained right ankle, but his comeback hit a roadblock yesterday. Shortly after Lewis began participating in drills, the soreness flared, and he gave way to Turner.

Turner has caught 14 passes, including three for scores, in Lewis' absence.

"It is going slow," Lewis said of his recovery. "My ankle feels pretty good, but I can't push off. It isn't right. It's definitely not 100 percent. Hopefully, it will come around [in time for Sunday]."

Turner, who also is nursing a sore hamstring -- he eventually gave way to rookie Patrick Johnson at practice -- is not happy about being benched. Coach Ted Marchibroda ruled out the notion of sending Turner to the opposite side to start in Jackson's place, saying Turner was too unfamiliar with Jackson's position.

"If Jermaine is not ready to go, I'll be back in there, and I'll be ready," Turner said.

Report on wounded

Offensive tackles Jonathan Ogden (ankle) and Orlando Brown (ankle), center Wally Williams (neck), tight end Eric Green (knee) and defensive tackle Tony Siragusa (neck) did not practice. Defensive tackle James Jones, who left Sunday's game and returned despite a strained knee ligament and a sore hamstring, practiced.

Each is questionable for the Bears game.

A magnetic resonance imaging test earlier this week revealed that Siragusa has a strained neck muscle. Siragusa also complained of ear discomfort and saw an ear, nose and throat specialist yesterday.

"The biggest concern is the neck, because it's still sore," said Ravens head trainer Bill Tessendorf.

Siragusa probably will not practice today.

Coaching vs. talent

After the news hit that five Ravens had been selected to the Pro Bowl, the players tiptoed around the question of the day.

How much does coaching figure in a 5-9 team's having so many good players?

"I always knew we had the talent. This just proves it," Ogden said. "We have the nucleus to be good. Do we have everything else in place? I can't say. We definitely have a good start."

"That's kind of a tough question. I really don't want to comment on that. All I can do is play as hard as I can," linebacker Peter Boulware said. "We've got some young, talented guys. It just shows that you can't win on talent alone. Everyone has to play together, everyone has to move in the right direction and everyone has to be focused."

"A lot of things come into play, but playing good football is the key component," cornerback Rod Woodson said. "Some guys have done that more than others around here, and those guys are being rewarded."

Et cetera

Running back Priest Holmes needs 141 rushing yards to reach 1,000. Fullback Roosevelt Potts needs 3 yards to reach 100. Part of the Ravens' offensive woes can be traced to an ineffective passing game involving their running backs. Holmes, Potts and Errict Rhett have combined for 75 receptions covering 434 yards -- a 5.8-yard average. They have combined for one touchdown reception. About 700 tickets remain for the season finale against Detroit on Dec. 27. The Ravens are holding opponents to 3.5 yards per rush. The Ravens are ranked third in the NFL with a 25-yard kickoff-return average and fifth in the league with a 13.2-yard punt-return average. With one more return for a touchdown, the Ravens would tie the league record (five) for a single season. The last team to achieve that? The 1959 Chicago Cardinals.

Pub Date: 12/17/98

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