Ravens' O. Brown is game to return

THE BALTIMORE SUN

As soon as Orlando Brown hit the ground, his teammates began the taunts.

It is rare to see a 6-foot-7, 350-pound man get knocked off his feet, be suspended in the air for a second and land on the field hard enough to cause a small earthquake, so Brown knew what he would see when he looked up - Ravens players pointing, yelling and laughing.

Brown was attempting to block defensive tackle Joe Salave'a in a recent practice but instead got upended and a little embarrassed. It was payback for Salave'a, who was on the receiving end of one of the right tackle's borderline tactics the previous play.

"I punched the guy," Brown said. "The next play, I tried to come back hard on him, and he ended up stepping to the side. You are supposed to take on the block, but he stepped to the side and hip-tossed me. He was wrong for doing it, but he was still mad from the play before. I wasn't mad; I was laughing the whole time."

And his teammates were laughing at him afterward.

"He's a big guy," Salave'a said. "I'm really proud to see he is with our team this year. Things happen out there, and later down the road, he'll probably try and get me back."

The old Brown might have attempted to immediately start a helmet-flying brawl, but the mammoth offensive lineman nicknamed "Zeus" has been relatively calm lately.

Brown's contentment may be rooted in being back on the practice field after missing a couple of weeks with a sore knee. He also missed the scrimmage and the opening preseason game, but there is a decent chance Brown will see his first action since the 1999 season tomorrow night against the Atlanta Falcons.

He does not want to do anything, like start a practice fight, to hurt that possibility.

"I can't wait," said Brown, who sat out the past three seasons because of an eye injury suffered when he was hit by a referee's flag in December 1999. "I'm still not sure if they are going to let me go out there or not, but if they do, I'm ready. It's going to be exciting for me. I'm going to try and keep myself calm, but it's an emotional game.

"I can get so emotional that I can scare my own teammates. They'll be like, 'What is wrong with him?' So I want to keep my cool and gradually work my way into it."

Brown and tight end Todd Heap (back spasms) will be game-time decisions, but the Ravens might choose to sit Brown because of the artificial turf at the Georgia Dome.

If he does play, Brown is expected to take a few snaps with the starters as the backup to Ethan Brooks. The Ravens had anticipated Brown battling and eventually supplanting Brooks by the season opener. The more game action Brown misses, though, the harder it will be for him to play an entire game by then.

The coaches are not sure how much work Brown will need to be ready for the regular season. He aggravated his knee the first week of training camp and has been fairly limited since.

"He needs all the reps he can get," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He needs confidence on [his knee]. I think every time he goes full-go, the more he does of that, the better he is going to feel."

Brown's presence would give the entire offense a lift, mainly because he is one of the few players who will direct expletives toward the defensive players if he feels they are talking too much.

"Like Cornell [Brown] last week," Brown said. "He made a couple of plays, got up and was like, "Y'all can't run that over here. Don't run it over here.' Then the offense gets quiet. But I'm the type of guy that is like, "The hell with you.' You can talk back and still do your job.

"They like to run their mouth over there, Cornell, Ray [Lewis], Marques [Douglas], all of them. That's something they do. One of the quarterbacks said to them, 'Y'all don't do all that talking when Zeus is out here. Y'all don't talk like that then.' Because the more they talk, the more high-tempo I get."

Said left guard Edwin Mulitalo: "He is bringing that nastiness we all know about."

But this time, it's a contained nastiness. Brown estimates his knee is healthy enough to play, and he, as usual, will be in a foul mood if he takes the field.

"I'm going to be happy, but I'm going to be [angry]," Brown said. "I can't be so wired up when I go out there for pre-game that I'll be done for the whole game. I have to keep my cool."

Next for Ravens

Preseason opponent: Atlanta Falcons

Site:Georgia Dome, Atlanta

When:Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio:Ch. 45, Comcast SportsNet/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

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