Last stand for pair of receivers

The Baltimore Sun

If the Ravens had intended to send a message to wide receivers Clarence Moore and Devard Darling about their futures with the team, consider the message understood.

Moore and Darling received one-year, $850,000 deals from the Ravens in March instead of multi-year contracts. Both players said they realize they need to prove themselves to the coaches, who sat the duo a combined 21 games last season.

Also, Moore and Darling - both of whom were drafted by the team in 2004 - saw the club use a third-round draft pick in April on rookie wide receiver-return specialist Yamon Figurs.

So Moore and Darling know that every day in training camp, beginning Sunday when players report, is an opportunity to convince the coaches that they belong with the Ravens.

"Yeah, I see that every day," Moore said of the chance to prove his worth. "Coming into these camps, I'm going to try and do it. That's just a goal for me. Whatever happens is going to happen."

During the offseason, coach Brian Billick declined to focus on Moore and Darling as players who need to raise their productivity this season.

"It's critical for everybody," Billick said. " ... Every year, it's the same. I don't care how many years left you have on your contract, how many years you've been here, if you're a starter, if you're not a starter, if you want to be a starter. You've got to take advantage of every snap you have out there."

Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton are the undisputed starters, while Demetrius Williams, a rookie last season, is the No. 3 wide receiver. It appears that Moore and Darling will be competing with Figurs and perhaps Romby Bryant for spots on the 53-man roster.

Darling was a player whose size and speed enticed the Ravens to trade two choices to the Minnesota Vikings to move up in the third round to select the receiver out of Washington State.

But in three seasons with the team, Darling has caught just two passes for 5 yards in 14 games. After playing in 10 games in 2005, he was deactivated for 15 of the final 16 games last season, as well as the playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

"It was baffling, but that's the way the game goes sometimes," Darling, 25, said of his lack of playing time. "It's about gaining their trust, going out there and taking advantage of every opportunity. Once I do that, I'll let the Lord take care of the rest."

Moore, a sixth-round pick out of Northern Arizona, enjoyed a promising start to his career, with 24 catches for 293 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games in 2004. Since then, he has caught just five passes for 60 yards and one touchdown in 14 games.

Moore, 24, said the team's decision to draft Figurs didn't bother him.

"It's been that way since I've been here," Moore said. "In my second year coming in as a starter, they drafted Mark. The next year coming in and fighting for the third position, they drafted Demetrius. You realize that your spot is never safe and that you've got to continue to go hard at whatever you do."

The players said they spent the offseason working on different aspects of the game.

Moore, who weighed 220 pounds last season, said he is bigger and hopes to arrive at training camp at 230; Darling said he has focused on improving his route running.

Both agreed that if things don't work out with the Ravens, the coming season could turn into a tryout for other teams.

"That's the way it goes. That's the NFL," Darling said. "That's the nature of the beast. I've got to go out there and do my thing and prove not only to myself but to other people that they can trust me and that ... I'm a player."

Notes -- The Ravens signed two draft picks, Figurs and quarterback Troy Smith (fifth round). The Ravens have only two draft choices left to sign: guard Ben Grubbs (first round) and fullback Le'Ron McClain (fourth round). ... The Ravens hired David Blackburn as a player personnel assistant.edward.lee@baltsun.com

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