Brunell a cloud over Ravens


Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell was nowhere near Owings Mills this week, but his shadow was everywhere.

In film rooms, on the practice field, in the Ravens' locker room.

Ravens coach Brian Billick started the week by suggesting Brunell might be the best quarterback in the NFL right now, and ended it by calling him "a deciding factor" in tomorrow's epic Week 2 reunion in Baltimore.

"He's too smart to do one thing against," Billick said. "You've got to do a lot of things. You've got to go zone, man, pressure him, fire-zone him. You've got to shut off the running game, don't let that be an option for him. He's a great quarterback."

In seven career games against the Ravens - including the last two against Billick - Brunell has earned those accolades. Like the Jaguars, he has owned the Ravens.

His numbers? He's thrown for 300 yards or more five times against the Ravens, with a high of 376 in 1998. He's completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,046 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also has rushed for 116 yards, one touchdown and three two-point conversions.

Bottom line: He's 7-0 against the Ravens, missing only the 1997 opener with a knee injury.

"He's the best of both worlds," said Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware. "He can throw extremely well, and if he doesn't have anything, he can get out and run the ball. That's what really makes him dangerous.

"He's not a Kordell [Stewart of Pittsburgh], but he can run. Kordell will run and hit you for 20 or 30 yards. Brunell may hit you for 10 or 15. But those definitely will be enough."

In a 27-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns last Sunday, Brunell ran only once, for 5 yards, but threw for 301 and looked like a pure pocket passer. The passing was what impressed Ravens safety Rod Woodson.

"He had a nice zing on the ball," Woodson said. "That's probably the hardest I've seen him throw the ball for several years."

Defensive end Rob Burnett was no less flattering: "I see a confident, talented quarterback with a lot of talented weapons around him. I think Mark Brunell is one of the top quarterbacks in the league. He's proven that; he's taken his team from the expansion nobodies to the Jacksonville Jaguars, pretty much one of the heavyweights in the AFC now. You have to respect that."

The Ravens also respected Steelers quarterback Kent Graham last week, however, before they crashed his party with a relentless pass rush. Because the Jaguars are expected to have trouble running against the Ravens, the pass rush could play an equally significant role.

NOTES: Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams (knee) participated in yesterday's practice and was cleared to play tomorrow. Center Jeff Mitchell had some soreness in his knee after Thursday's practice, but has gotten the green light as well. ... The Ravens deactivated defensive backs Clarence Love and Anthony Poindexter, defensive end Adalius Thomas and receiver Brandon Stokley. The Jaguars deactivated running back Fred Taylor, center John Wade, tackle Leon Searcy and defensive tackle Emarlos Leroy, all with injuries. ... The Ravens' Sept. 24 home game against the Cincinnati Bengals is a sellout, raising to five the number of sellouts this season.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars

Site: PSINet Stadium

When: Tomorrow, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Ravens by 3

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