Stover kept as Bentley gets boot; Ravens again keep veteran kicker; Turner, Metcalf among 10 cuts; Turner claims favoritism; McCrary, Boulware to start opener

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Kicker Matt Stover survived, wide receiver Floyd Turner did not, and the Cleveland Browns reunion party lost another member.

The Ravens moved closer to finalizing their 53-man roster yesterday by waiving 10 players, most notably Turner, former Browns running back Eric Metcalf and kicker Scott Bentley, who gave Stover all he could handle throughout training camp and the preseason.

The Ravens must cut two more players by 4 p.m. today to reach the league's mandatory roster limit.

Bentley, who was unavailable to comment yesterday, may have blown his chance when he badly missed a 40-yard field-goal attempt at the end of the first half in Friday's 28-24 victory over the New York Giants.

"Every year is a new challenge for me. I've just had to kick my own game and not worry about what's going on around me," said Stover, who is heading into his 10th season and his ninth straight with the same franchise. He is the 11th-most accurate field-goal kicker in league history, having made 174 of 221 attempts (78.7 percent).

"There is a new coach [here] who doesn't know me," added Stover, referring to Brian Billick. "He's seen what I've done in my past. What can you do now? I felt like I kicked well as camp went on. Scott is a great kicker. He can be in this league."

Billick would not comment about the team's roster decisions.

The Ravens, after sending former Browns wide receiver Webster Slaughter packing, also said goodbye to Metcalf, electing to keep the younger, quicker Jay Graham as a backup tailback. Metcalf, 31, a 10-year veteran, made his mark in Cleveland as a first-round pick in 1989 and spent six years there as one of the league's more dangerous punt return men and third-down backs.

Metcalf has lost a step in recent years, and his preseason punt returns here were unimpressive.

Turner, who lost the battle for the sixth and final receiver spot to Billy Davis, did not leave quietly. The 10-year veteran with 281 catches for 3,805 yards and 31 touchdowns to his credit blasted his former team, saying the Ravens set him up to fail.

Turner, who was second on the Ravens with 512 yards and five touchdown receptions in 1998, hinted that Billick has favored the taller but unproven Justin Armour all along.

Armour, whom Billick recruited when he coached at Stanford in the early 1990s, has caught one pass since the 1995 season.

"I learned a valuable lesson that I already knew today. The best athletes don't always dress on the field," Turner said. "I feel if they had given me a chance to compete, I could have been a starter. One way you can get a player out is don't let him compete.

"I saw it coming a couple of weeks ago. I didn't get any plays against Philly [in the preseason opener] and I only got in for the last six minutes in Atlanta [game two]. I think this is the first time in my career that things were that stacked against me. It kind of showed itself from day one."

The Ravens also waived offensive linemen Bob Sapp, Chris Harrison and Sammy Williams, a sixth-round draft pick from a year ago. Also let go were defensive linemen Marques Douglas and Larry Fitzpatrick and cornerbacks John Williams and Corey Chamblin.

The Ravens are still carrying eight linebackers, and as many of two -- among a group consisting of Tyrell Peters, Jeff Kopp and Brad Jackson -- could be gone by today. Jackson suffered a thumb injury and could be stashed on the injured list. He also could be headed back to the practice roster, where Douglas and Chamblin may wind up, as well.

Another possible victim could be tight end A. J. Ofodile, who is one of five tight ends (including long snapper Frank Wainwright) still on the roster.

Billick, looking ahead to next week's regular-season opener in St. Louis, said right defensive end Michael McCrary will start against the Rams. He also plans to start outside linebacker Peter Boulware, who lasted for 16 plays Friday against the Giants before re-injuring the tender right shoulder that kept him out of preseason action up to then.

McCrary did not play for the entire preseason, due to a combination of his rehabilitation from off-season knee surgery and squabbles with the team over his contract extension talks. The plan was to hold back McCrary until the preseason finale against the Giants. But after McCrary left the team for three days last week following a breakdown in talks, the Ravens ruled him out of Friday's game.

Billick had hoped McCrary would shed some rust against the Giants.

"That's what the last game was for. Unfortunately, [McCrary] removed himself," said Billick, who added he expected McCrary to be spelled considerably next week by backup Keith Washington. "To think [McCrary] is going to take all 65 snaps and play the way he normally does, that would be overly ambitious."

As for Boulware, Billick was not happy with his decision to loosen his protective shoulder harness against the Giants. Third-year man Cornell Brown, who has practiced and played in Boulware's place for most of the preseason and training camp, will step in if Boulware falters again.

"We have far too many non-medical people making medical decisions," Billick said. "If you go to a doctor with an illness and he says take this medicine, you take the medicine. How stupid would it be not to do what the doctor tells you? Peter knows he was wrong. I guess he had to learn it the hard way."

Billick was happy with the way his offense closed out the preseason, scoring 56 points in the final two games of a 4-0 stretch. He liked the third-down efficiency and the crisp nature of the two-minute drill. He liked the way his receivers held onto the ball. He liked watching the development of No. 3 quarterback Stoney Case. He frowned upon the eight turnovers the unit committed.

As for the defense, Billick is eager to see the unit injected with the pass rush and the speed that has been missing with Boulware and McCrary on the sidelines. A lack of a consistent pass rush partly explains why the Ravens allowed 482 passing yards over their last two games and faltered on third down, allowing 12 conversions in 28 situations.

Carolina and New York burned the Ravens' zone defense repeatedly over the middle for big gains.

"When you have someone by the throat in a second-and-10 or a third-and-15, you can't let them out of there," Billick said. "You can't give up those kind of big plays. Explosives are the No. 1 criteria for winning a game. You can't give them up and you've got to have them.

"Overall, keep in mind that two of my top players [on defense] have been sitting out. I'm pleased with the way the defense has played. I still believe this team is capable of being an elite defense."

Next for Ravens

Regular-season opener

Opponent: St. Louis Rams

Site: Trans World Dome, St. Louis

When: Next Sunday, 1 p.m. TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

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