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Sharper insists he'll play against Steelers


A day after Jamie Sharper aggravated a knee injury he suffered in the third preseason game, the Ravens linebacker insisted he'll play in Sunday's opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That's nothing new for the four-year veteran.

Sharper, 25, has started 41 consecutive games for the Ravens, the second longest streak on the team behind defensive end Michael McCrary. He has played 48 consecutive games.

"From being a guy who played football a long time, you know things you can do physically and things you can't," Sharper said yesterday. "I can play through injury."

Sharper said the only time an injury has forced him out of the lineup was his junior year at Virginia, when he missed two games with torn cartilage in his knee.

Originally hurt when he was cut-blocked in a preseason win over the Carolina Panthers, Sharper was held out of the exhibition finale as a precaution. On Wednesday, he strained his left knee again in a different place, according to trainer Bill Tessendorf.

When Sharper completed yesterday's practice, he left no doubt about his status for Sunday.

"I'll definitely go," he said. "It slowed me down a little in practice, but you go full speed in games, and whatever happens, happens."

Three Rivers farewell

Ravens safety Rod Woodson played the first 10 years of his NFL career at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium. On Sunday, he'll play one last regular-season game there. The Steelers are moving into a new stadium in 2001.

"I have a lot of memories, and have played in a lot of great football games there," he said. "The fans were just outstanding the whole time I was there. Once I retire and reflect back on playing at Three Rivers, and playing that long with the Steelers, it will all mean more."

Woodson, whose 54 career interceptions rank second among active players behind Carolina's Eugene Robinson, doesn't have an interception in four games against the Steelers.

Together again

The previous time Travis Taylor played in a game with Plaxico Burress, the two precocious wide-outs had a field day. Playing for Florida, Taylor had 11 catches for 156 yards and three touchdowns, and was MVP in a 37-34 Citrus Bowl loss to Burress' Michigan State team. Burress had 13 receptions for 185 yards and three touchdowns.

They were linked again in this year's draft when Burress went to the Steelers with the eighth pick and Taylor to the Ravens with the 10th. Both will start Sunday's game.

Taylor says there is no rivalry between the two, though.

"Not at all," he said. "Both of us had a good game in the Citrus Bowl. We went at it, back and forth.

"I'm friends with Plex, he's a good player. He used to come down to Florida to work out with us."

Asked this week if the 6-foot-5 Burress compared with Randy Moss of the Minnesota Vikings, Ravens coach Brian Billick was succinct: "I think he ought to catch a pass in the NFL before comparing him to Randy Moss. He's got some real talent, some size and speed, leaping ability. He'll be a factor we'll have to deal with. I'm sure they plan to put him over there on [5-10 cornerback] Duane [Starks] and throw a bunch of fades up to him."

Ready to rip

Billick is more relaxed heading into the opener than he was heading into the fourth preseason game a week ago. Why?

"I was afraid of getting [players] hurt last week," he said. "I was just apprehensive about the last week. You try to fight through it, push them. You want a good tempo. But that last week, there's so many things heading into the all-important first game that you're concerned with - the cuts, who's going to stay healthy. So it's a lot to worry about in the last preseason game."

End zone

After yesterday's practice, Billick said wide receiver Patrick Johnson, out since July 25 with a broken collarbone, will not play against the Steelers. Reserve safety Anthony Poindexter is listed as questionable. ... The trip to Three Rivers will be the Ravens only game on artificial turf in the regular season. After this season, every team in the AFC Central will play on grass. ... In order to activate defensive tackle Tony Siragusa this week, the Ravens will have to make one more roster cut tomorrow to reach the 53-man limit.

Ravens schedule

Date Opponent Time TV

9-3 at Pittsburgh 1 13

9-10 Jacksonville 1 13

9-17 at Miami 8:20 ESPN

9-24 Cincinnati 1 13

10-1 at Cleveland 1 13

10-8 at Jacksonville 8:20 ESPN

10-15 at Washington 1 13

10-22 Tennessee 1 13

10-29 Pittsburgh 1 13

11-5 at Cincinnati 1 13

11-12 at Tennessee 1 13

11-19 Dallas 4:15 45

11-26 Cleveland 1 13

12-3 Open

12-10 San Diego 1 13

12-17 at Arizona 4:15 13

12-24 New York Jets 1 13

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