Ayanbadejo blindsided by release from Vikings; Reunited with Billick, fullback replaces Vinson


Fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo never saw it coming. After spending two years bouncing between the active and developmental rosters with the Minnesota Vikings, after overcoming a back injury he suffered while playing in NFL Europe last year, he said he finally was smelling a whiff of job security.

Then, the Vikings cut him.

Eight days after leaving Minnesota, Ayanbadejo landed yesterday in Baltimore, where he has been reunited with former Vikings such as coach Brian Billick, fullback Chuck Evans, guard Everett Lindsay and tight end Greg DeLong.

Ayanbadejo, 24, replaces fullback Tony Vinson, who has been placed on injured reserve after re-injuring the shoulder he separated during the team's 1998 training camp. As a result, Vinson spent all of last season on injured reserve.

"A week ago, I was out of a job thinking, 'What am I going to do now?' " said Ayanbadejo, who also was offered a practice roster spot in Chicago before joining the Ravens' 53-man roster. "The uncertainty is the worst part. I just want to be successful. I don't care where it's at."

Ayanbadejo, 6 feet 2, 235 pounds, becomes the backup fullback behind Evans. He will figure significantly in the Ravens' special teams makeup.

"I know what [Billick's] scheme is about. I know what he's trying to do," he said. "It just makes it a little bit easier for me to get settled in there."

Ayanbadejo originally signed with Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 1997. The Vikings released him during training camp, then re-signed him to their practice squad in February 1998.

He spent the first 12 weeks of the season there, before winding up last year on the active roster. He then made the Vikings' 53-man roster in September, and had been backing up John Henry Mills.

"I was one guy away from being on the field a lot, so I thought my chances of sticking around were pretty good," he said. "I thought I had gotten over the hump. I'm just glad I landed on my feet."

Injury update

Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and defensive end Michael McCrary did not practice yesterday. Siragusa (knee) is not expected back until the Tennessee game (Oct. 10) at the earliest.

McCrary, listed as probable for Sunday's game in Atlanta, was rested as a precaution. He said he has experienced some irritation in his knee, a result of arthroscopic surgery in March.

"I had a lot of scar tissue form in there after the surgery. Right now, I'm in the process of shaping it and molding it," McCrary said. "Until then, it's going to irritate me. Everybody that has this type of surgery goes through the same thing.

"I can play better, but physically I'm not quite able to dominate right now like I want to. I'm close, but I'm not there yet. I'm still overcoming some things."

McCrary, who missed all of the preseason, ranks fourth on the team with 17 tackles and is tied for second with two sacks.

He recently signed a six-year, $42 million contact extension, which includes a $12.25 million signing bonus. He has collected $6.125 million of the bonus already, and is due to get the other half next March.

The contract calls for salaries of $500,000 this year, $2.75 million in 2000, $4.25 million in 2001, $5.5 million in 2002, $6.5 million in 2003 and $11 million in 2004.

Boulware honored

Linebacker Peter Boulware was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

Boulware had six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the Ravens' 17-10 victory over Cleveland.

Early in the second quarter, Boulware sacked Tim Couch for an 11-yard loss and stripped the ball at the Browns 1. The Ravens recovered and scored a touchdown two plays later to take a 10-0 lead.

Boulware is tied for the NFL lead with four sacks and has at least one sack in all three games this season.

Emmitt who?

Atlanta coach Dan Reeves compared Ravens running back Errict Rhett to Dallas running back Emmitt Smith yesterday -- once he remembered Smith's name.

"I think Errict's excited about where he is right now," Reeves said. "He's running extremely well. Coming out [of college] he reminded me so much, golly, what's his name from Dallas "

When Smith's name was mentioned, Reeves said, "He [Rhett] reminds me so much of him and they both played at Florida. I thought he was a great back coming out of college and he has really looked good over the last couple of weeks."

Brooks-Billick II

The chess match between Atlanta defensive coordinator Rich Brooks and Billick will start with the first series.

The Ravens have yet to get a first down on their first series in the first three games and have passed eight times on the nine plays.

Billick said that last week he opened with a pass for the third straight week because he thought Cleveland would look for the run and had Evans open in the flat, but quarterback Stoney Case missed him.

Now Billick has to decide whether to open with a pass for the fourth straight week.

Brooks, who limited Minnesota to seven points in the second half of the NFC title game last year when Billick was the Vikings offensive coordinator, said, "His offensive formations and what he likes to do with the football are pretty similar to what we saw in Minnesota, but he's probably running the ball better than when we played them in Minnesota [last January]."

Modell down on parity

Ravens owner Art Modell is surprised the four conference finalists from last season are 1-11, but isn't sure it's a positive development for the league.

"It's a first for me in my 39 years. It's a tremendous reversal of form, but I don't know if it's the best thing for the NFL. Some people think it's great that other teams have a chance to come up, but you don't want to see that big a fall for teams on top. We really wouldn't want to be seeking that kind of situation by design," he said.

Sun staff writer Vito Stellino contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 9/30/99

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