Return to practice delayed, but Burnett, Ogden to start Sunday; Day's heavy rain forces scaled-back workouts; McCrary rounds into form


Yesterday's downpour not only put a damper on the Ravens' practice, but it also halted the return of starting offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and defensive end Rob Burnett to the lineup.

Both players, injured against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, were scheduled to return to practice yesterday. But the rain forced the team to have a walk-through practice inside the team's weight training facility.

Ogden and Burnett are still expected to play Sunday in the home opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ogden suffered a bruised hip in the first quarter against the Rams and Burnett injured his knee in the game's waning moments.

"Jonathan is feeling better," said Ravens trainer Bill Tessendorf. "If we were practicing today, he would have done some work and so would have Rob. The only player we're still a little concerned about is James Atkins [reserve left guard, hamstring]. All of them will be ready, but it will be a coach's decision."

Ogden said he enjoys playing the Steelers.

"Pittsburgh and Jacksonville are two teams I get jacked up to play, especially Pittsburgh," Ogden said. "They think they are tough and they play that way. That makes it fun."

McCrary 'getting feel back'

Defensive end Michael McCrary says he is close to top form after missing all four preseason games rehabilitating from a knee injury and missing practice time because of stalled contract negotiations.

The Ravens moved McCrary along the defensive line and at linebacker against the Rams to try to draw mismatches as well as interrupt St. Louis' game plan. McCrary likes the new tactic.

"I'm a natural linebacker," he said. "I love playing linebacker because it allows me to roam all over the field. But I have played with the cards I was dealt, and I'm a defensive end. Against the Rams, my conditioning just wasn't a factor; my timing and feel for the game were off. I'm not trying to make any excuses. I gave everything I could give, but it wasn't enough.

"But I'm getting my feel back. I've even taken some snaps with the scout team to get back to normal. I'm close, very close."

Starks seeks rebound

Second-year cornerback Duane Starks had the best training camp of any secondary player, but he wasn't so impressive against the Rams. There were a couple of times when Rams receiver Isaac Bruce ran Starks 40 yards into a route, and Bruce ended up catching the ball only 20 yards from the line of scrimmage.

It was embarrassing for Starks, who had flashbacks to last season when he was a rookie.

"I was over-anxious. I wanted to make some plays," Starks said. "There is no way in the world I am going to let that happen again."

Just like last season, Starks got caught peeking at the quarterback instead of focusing on his receiver.

"That was definitely the case," he said. "But that's going to change this week. Even if it's a running play, I'm going to be all over my guy. I have to focus on doing my job correctly."

The intensity issue

After coach Brian Billick said the team had no intensity against the Rams, left guard Everett Lindsay noticed the difference between the Ravens and his team last year, the Minnesota Vikings, who went 15-1 and reached the NFC championship game.

"You have to bring intensity to practice," Lindsay said. "You have to have intensity all through the week. You can't have it in practice and just turn it on in a game. You have to come prepared.

"We're still trying to make that transformation of a new system from preseason to the regular season and you have to stay focused. I think there definitely will be a more focused team this week. No question, we will be an intense football team on Sunday."

Evans gears up for Kirkland

One of the occasional collisions to look for Sunday will be between Ravens fullback Chuck Evans and Steelers inside linebacker Levon Kirkland. At 245 pounds, Evans packs quite a punch. At 270 pounds, Kirkland is a borderline physical freak, a Pro Bowl linebacker in a lineman's body.

"He's kind of amazing, in terms of how he moves. He's a little bigger than you want a linebacker to be, but he has shown he can control himself and all that weight," Evans said of Kirkland. "If you stay true to your technique, you should get the job done, no matter how big he is.

"The nature of my job is I have to pop a linebacker. He's a linebacker, so I've got to pop him."

Browns game no barometer

One thing is sure: Billick won't be looking at the tape from the Cleveland-Pittsburgh game long to scout the Steelers. Pittsburgh embarrassed the Browns, 43-0, holding Cleveland to 40 total yards and two first downs.

Just as Billick had receivers Randy Moss and Cris Carter and quarterback Randall Cunningham a year ago in Minnesota, Browns coach Chris Palmer had quarterback Mark Brunell and receivers Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith a year ago in Jacksonville when he was the Jaguars' offensive coordinator.

"'You have to treat that game like a preseason game and take what you can from the first half," Billick said of the Cleveland debacle. "Pittsburgh is outstanding from the standpoint that Bill Cowher always has his teams ready to play. They've lost some people but they seem to fill in effectively. They are an outstanding organization that way.

"I don't know what to tell you. Either Pittsburgh is that good or Cleveland is that bad, I don't know. So that first game, I don't know how much we're going to get out of that in terms of analyzing what they're about."

Et cetera

Ravens president David Modell, on his angry and disappointed red face after losing to the Rams: "I hate losing. Everyone in our organization should feel that way. If they don't, well... " A few hundred tickets are available for the Ravens-Browns game on Sept. 26. Call 410-481-SEAT.

Pub Date: 9/17/99

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