Siragusa expected to return for Titans; Knee swollen after surgery, he'll miss Falcons; Billick says replay 'doesn't work'


Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, who is three days removed from having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, will miss this week's game in Atlanta, and the Ravens expect to have him back in the lineup the following week against the Tennessee Titans.

Ravens head trainer Bill Tessendorf said Siragusa was experiencing "a lot of swelling" in the knee, after having floating particles removed.

"The MRI showed a lot of old, wear-and-tear fragments in there, and a lot of that stuff got flushed out," Tessendorf said. "Right now, it's pretty sore from having two instruments jammed into it. Pending anything out of the ordinary, we think it's very realistic that he'll be back for Tennessee [on Oct. 10]."

Although ESPN reported last night that Siragusa will miss the next two games and return after the Ravens' bye week against Kansas City on Oct. 21, Ravens coach Brian Billick reiterated Tessendorf's plan.

"We don't expect [Siragusa] to be back this week, and we're hoping to have him back against Tennessee," Billick said.

The Ravens missed Siragusa's 340-pound presence in the middle early in Sunday's 17-10 victory over Cleveland, as Browns running back Terry Kirby broke off some sizable gains inside. But, second-year tackles Lional Dalton and Martin Chase -- who each took about 25 snaps, according to Billick -- improved as the game went on. Kirby finished with 51 yards on 18 carries.

"We missed [Siragusa's] character and his personality, but me and Chase are the future," said Dalton, who finished with one tackle. Chase had one assist.

The Ravens also expect to be without backup fullback Tony Vinson against the Falcons. Vinson left the game in the first half with a sprained left ankle. Tessendorf also said he is nursing a shoulder injury he suffered in practice last week -- the same one that caused him to spend 1998 on injured reserve. Vinson likely will be listed as doubtful tomorrow.

The team was expected to work out former Minnesota fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo today. Ayanbadejo, 6 feet 2, 235 pounds, a second-year player out of San Diego State, originally signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 1997.

Billick blasts instant replay

Upon further review, the Ravens defense was as close to flawless as it has ever been against Cleveland. The Browns gained 189 total yards, although 61 of those yards came on a pass play to Kirby that set up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Tim Couch to Kevin Johnson.

Problem was, the 61-yard connection to Kirby never should have counted, as television replays showed Couch was nearly 2 yards beyond the line of scrimmage as he released the ball.

"[Couch] was past the line of scrimmage. He was clearly over," said Billick, who did not challenge the call, but did blast the system under which coaches can attempt to reverse a decision.

Once a coach asks to have a play reviewed, an official on the field looks at a sideline monitor to review the play.

"They [officials] are supposed to get a feed similar to what the replay booth gets [upstairs]," Billick said. "What they're having to rely on, really, is the SmartVision [screens]. The league's idea, with the TV there [on the field] you might as well have 'All in the Family' on, because we don't get the feed quickly enough. It just doesn't work.

"That will only cost me $2,000."

Starks takes blame

Couch may have made a perfect throw, and Johnson may have made a superb catch in the corner of the end zone to cut the Ravens' lead to 17-10 on Sunday and add some suspense to the proceedings, but Ravens cornerback Duane Starks pointed the finger at himself for blowing the coverage.

The Ravens were in a zone alignment on the play. Starks' responsibility was to take away the outside lane from Johnson, and rely on help from safety Rod Woodson on the inside. Instead, Starks gave up the outside to Johnson, who beat him for the score.

"I didn't play [the zone] as soft as I was supposed to," Starks said. "I played [Johnson] more head up and I let him get on the outside of me. It was all my fault. The quarterback made a great read and great throw. He lifted it right over me. I accept responsibility for it, no doubt."

Unhappy returns

Wide receiver and punt return specialist Jermaine Lewis is still looking for his first touchdown. At least opponents are giving him a chance in the punt return game. For now.

The Browns' Chris Gardocki punted to Lewis six times on Sunday. Lewis recorded 63 return yards, including a high of 17 yards.

But his frustration seemed to show midway through the fourth quarter, when Gardocki outkicked his coverage with a 58-yard bomb. Lewis looked indecisive while dancing his way to a 3-yard return.

"Yesterday [Sunday] was the first time we started to get some returnable balls all year, and we've got to iron out some kinks [in the return game]," Lewis said. "We've got to get a better feel for blocking, and I've got to do a better job of setting them up."

Ravens special teams coach Russ Purnell was more critical of Lewis.

"If Jermaine wasn't running around like a chicken with his head cut off on that last one, we'd have knocked [the Browns] down a couple more notches," Purnell said. "Sometimes, you're looking for the home run, when you've got to go get your 10 yards and come back for the next one."


In two games, Errict Rhett has rushed for 214 yards, which is 34 more than he managed in all of 1998 while mostly riding the bench under coach Ted Marchibroda. Qadry Ismail leads the team with 10 catches for 148 yards. The Ravens have thrown for two touchdowns and allowed four touchdown passes. Eleven of punter Kyle Richardson's 21 attempts have pinned opponents inside their 20.

Pub Date: 9/28/99

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