QB not only position of change; Linebacker Kopp signed; tight end Purnell released; Ravens make Mitchell No. 3


Faced with the prospect of losing backup middle linebacker Tyrell Peters temporarily to a hamstring injury, the Ravens re-signed veteran linebacker Jeff Kopp yesterday.

To make room on the 53-man roster for Kopp, who played in seven games here last year and was cut when the team finalized its roster on Sept. 5, the Ravens waived tight end Lovett Purnell.

A team source also said that quarterback Scott Mitchell, who was benched in favor of new starter Stoney Case in Sunday's home opener against Pittsburgh, has been dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart. That marks the second straight year that Mitchell has fallen from No. 1 to No. 3 after the season's second game. It happened in Detroit in 1998.

Tony Banks remains the backup to Case.

Kopp "did a nice job on special teams for us last year, and his familiarity is a plus," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We are precarious at that [linebacker] position."

Billick said Peters is questionable for Sunday's game against Cleveland.

The Ravens also worked out veteran linebackers Tony McCombs and James Francis yesterday. McCombs is a third-year player who was drafted in the sixth round by Arizona in 1997. Francis is a former first-round draft pick and 10-year veteran who was released by the Cincinnati Bengals 17 days ago. Francis has started 129 games and recorded 576 tackles and 33 sacks. At 6 feet 5, 257 pounds, he has the size and experience Billick likes, but Kopp's ability to contribute immediately on special teams weighed heavily in the decision to bring him back to Baltimore.

Purnell had lost his starting job to Aaron Pierce during training camp. Purnell had two catches for 10 yards, and Pierce has recovered from foot and thigh injuries to excel as a blocker and receiver.

By waiving Purnell, a four-year veteran who backed up Ben Coates in New England for three seasons, the Ravens sliced their tight end allotment from five to four -- Pierce, A. J. Ofodile, Greg DeLong and Frank Wainwright. Purnell's departure opens the door for third-year man Ofodile to assume a more prominent role.

Ofodile, 6-6, 260, is the best pure athlete among the tight ends, and his blocking has improved significantly. After being inactive for the team's first two games, Ofodile will he activated this week against Cleveland. He will play on special teams. Billick also wants to see him work his way into the offense.

"We feel like A. J. can help us getting downfield, and it's something we want to continue to develop," Billick said. "It's time for him to show up."

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