Ngata runs out of steam

The Baltimore Sun

TAMPA, Fla. -- Haloti Ngata wanted to go all the way. His legs just wouldn't let him.

The Ravens' rookie defensive tackle opened his NFL career yesterday by snaring a pass from Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms, which was batted up by linebacker Bart Scott at the Ravens' 31-yard line, and rumbling down the left sideline late in the second quarter.

But about 30 yards from the end zone, Ngata began to lose steam and even though he needed to navigate just a few more yards, the 6-foot-4, 340-pound rookie simply ran out of bounds at the Buccaneers' 9.

Asked if he entertained the idea of returning the defense's second interception for a touchdown, Ngata said, "Yeah, I thought about it. Just that me being a big guy, I run out of gas pretty fast. ... I was sprinting and my legs just got tired."

Ngata endured a little ribbing from his teammates. Scott promised to give Ngata an energy bar before upcoming games, and defensive tackle Kelly Gregg joked that Ngata lost 30 pounds on that 60-yard run.

Besides the interception and a batted pass, Ngata had a quiet day, registering no tackles in the Ravens' shutout.

But Ngata, who was selected by the team with the 12th overall pick in last April's draft to prevent opposing blockers from reaching middle linebacker Ray Lewis, may have succeeded in that assignment. Lewis tied fellow linebacker Adalius Thomas with a team-high seven tackles.

Still, Ngata said he saw room for improvement.

"I felt like I could've gotten some tackles, but I'll just work on that and watch the film and get better every week," he said.


Running back Jamal Lewis heard the whispers but figured he would let his performance on the field do the talking.

Lewis, whose absence from the final two preseason games to rest a sore hip flexor prompted concerns that he would be ineffective this season, may have put those worries to rest with his 18-carry, 78-yard showing yesterday.

Lewis, who averaged 4.3 yards per rush and capped the Ravens' opening drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with 5:44 left in the first quarter, said he was determined to prove that he had not lost his ability to burst through holes or desire to play the game.

"I heard a lot of things like I didn't show much promise in the preseason," he said with a smile. "But I think I actually might've been the freshest guy out there on the field. I just went out and wanted to hit the hole hard and ... get those positive yards so that we can keep the chains moving."

Left tackle Jonathan Ogden said the Lewis he witnessed yesterday reminded him of the Lewis of the past.

"Jamal is coming back," Ogden said. "I had no doubts or concerns about his ability. I know what he can do and what he's going to do this year for us."


The Ravens' offensive line had a solid outing yesterday, and no one had a tougher task than Ogden.

The nine-time Pro Bowl player frequently tangled with fellow All-Pro defensive end Simeon Rice, and though Rice was credited with three hits on quarterback Steve McNair, he finished with no sacks.

In fact, Tampa Bay's only sack occurred in the first quarter when McNair fumbled while attempting a pass and defensive end Dewayne White fell on top of McNair when he recovered the loose ball.

"I did a good job on the passing plays today," Ogden said. "Not to take anything away from [Rice] as a player ... but we won the game and he didn't get a sack. So, hey, that's in my book today."


The Ravens may have surprised some observers by declaring pass-rushing linebacker Dan Cody inactive for yesterday's game, but Cody seemed to take it in stride.

Cody was considered to be a threat opposite defensive end Terrell Suggs on passing downs, but instead Cody, who missed all of last season with a sprained anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, was forced to watch the game from the sideline in street clothes.

"That's just how it goes. There's nothing you can really do or say," Cody said of his benching. "If anything, this shows me how much better I need to get before I can be a part of it. All I can do is take the good from it and move on."

The Ravens also deactivated wide receiver Clarence Moore, guard Chris Chester, defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin, cornerbacks Derrick Martin and David Pittman and running backs P.J. Daniels and Cory Ross.

As expected, the Buccaneers kept guards Davin Joseph (knee) and Dan Buenning (ankle) and linebacker Shelton Quarles (groin) on the bench. Wide receivers Maurice Stovall and Paris Warren, defensive tackle Julian Jenkins and cornerback Alan Zemaitis were also game-day scratches. Tim Rattay was named the No. 3 (emergency) quarterback.


The Ravens escaped yesterday's game with no major injuries. Defensive end Trevor Pryce suffered a mild concussion in the third quarter, but he returned to the game and said afterward that he did not anticipate missing any practice time this week.

Six players did get IVs to prevent dehydration. They were cornerback Chris McAlister, safety Ed Reed, offensive tackle Tony Pashos, tight end Daniel Wilcox, and running backs Musa Smith and Justin Green.


Bruce Gradkowski may have made his NFL debut yesterday replacing an ineffective Chris Simms, but the rookie from Toledo said he understands his place on the depth chart.

Gradkowski, who was drafted in the sixth round in April, spelled Simms midway through the fourth quarter and completed just one of five passes for 4 yards.

Simms went 17-for-29 for 133 yards, threw three interceptions and was sacked twice.

Still, Gradkowski said he is well aware that he is the No. 2 quarterback on the team.

"Chris is the man out here," Gradkowski said. "It was just a different look. It was nothing big."


Ravens kicker Matt Stover moved up to eighth on the NFL's all-time scoring list. Stover, who was tied with kicker Eddie Murray with 1,594 points, scored nine yesterday. ... Brian Billick is 40-1 when the Ravens have a lead of at least 14 points. Billick's .976 winning percentage in that category is the fourth-best mark among active coaches, surpassed only by Indianapolis' Tony Dungy (57-0, 1.000), New England's Bill Belichick (57-1, .983) and Pittsburgh's Bill Cow- her (80-1-1, .982).

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