Make, break day for Ravens; Players on bubble take their best shot in final exhibition


Ravens rookie defensive end Marques Douglas wants to embark on a law career and some day become a judge, but he doesn't want to start on that journey Monday.

Douglas, from Howard University, has been impressive in training camp and the Ravens' three preseason games, but is still one of about 15 players on the bubble heading into today's final preseason game against the New York Giants at PSINet Stadium at noon.

The Ravens have to cut 12 players by 4 p.m. Sunday to get down to the mandatory 53. "No, I really wouldn't like to be faced with that situation any time soon," said Douglas, laughing. "Cut? Honestly, I really don't think about the end coming. I believe in God answering prayers, but at the same time, that's why I have a college degree to prepare for something like that."

Douglas, 6 feet 2 and 270 pounds, was a human development major and graduated with a 3.6 grade-point average in his field and a 2.9 average overall. He is articulate and soft-spoken having spent his last year at Howard as the president of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.

In college, Douglas started 40 games and finished second all time in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with 39.5 sacks. He was also named to the All-Conference first team three times. But with the Ravens, he is nothing more than a player with loads of potential working behind starters Rob Burnett, Michael McCrary and reserves Fernando Smith and Keith Washington.

"The biggest adjustment for me has been taking more mental reps here than in college," said Douglas, who signed with the Ravens as a free agent. "As a rookie, I'm not getting as many opportunities to practice as I did in college. I thought about that before I came here, but I have a talent they like."

"I'm a competitor," he said. "From day one I did not come here just to make the team, but make plays. I know that if I play with my heart, then I have a good chance of making the team."

Douglas says he is a little anxious about today's game. But he has been given support during the last five weeks by Washington, a fifth-year veteran who was his roommate during training camp at Western Maryland College. Washington knows about the anxieties of making an NFL roster. He had been waived by Minnesota and Detroit before catching on with the Ravens in 1997.

Washington is also a born-again Christian.

"I've never been nervous about playing a game, but I'm anxious. There is a difference," said Douglas. "Keith has been great, talking about everything from football to God. Some days when I was bothered by how I was playing, he would talk with me and I'd feel better. He has been in my situation before and he told me don't think about it, don't get caught up in the whole thing, just go out and play real hard and everything will take care of itself."

That's the approach taken by most of the players in this situation. Linebacker Tyrell Peters has been in the league three years. He will compete with fellow linebacker Brad Jackson for a spot on the roster as a reserve and special teams performer.

"My role on this team will be on special teams," said Peters. "So when I get a chance to play, I've got to make some big plays. This could be my last game so I'm going to play like it is my last game."

Offensive lineman Chris Harrison said: "I've played pretty solid in these preseason games. But look what happened to Joe Patton in Washington, nothing is guaranteed. I'm not a starter so I know always in preseason I need to play four solid games to make the team. They have some tough decisions to make on the offensive line. It will be a lot easier for them if I don't play a good game."

Most of the players on the bubble are fighting for spots as special teams players. The starting defense is basically the same lineup from a year ago. The starting offense was pretty much shaped before training camp began. The Ravens are looking for extra players to fill out the roster, like a fifth or sixth receiver, or a No. 3 or 4 running back.

Two of the most interesting battles has running back Jay Graham and Eric Metcalf searching for roster spots and Scott Bentley challenging incumbent Matt Stover for the place-kicking duties.

Bentley and Stover have kicked well in the preseason and the job may be decided by who performs better on kickoffs. Stover's salary may also play a part. He is one of the highest paid at his position.

"You want to perform well and solidify a job on the team," said Stover. "You just want to do the best you can. You just go out there and perform and that usually takes care of itself. I'm not looking at what Scott is doing, I'm just worrying about myself."

Ravens today

Preseason opponent: New York Giants

Site: PSINet Stadium

When: Today, noon

TV/Radio: Tape delay at 1: 30 p.m. on Ch. 13/live on WJFK (1300 AM) and WLIF (101.9 FM) , Line: Ravens by 1 1/2

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