The 83 boxes filled with championship banners and grainy
pictures of Jim Brown were shipped to the Pro Football Hall of
Fame in Canton, Ohio. The 30 former front-office workers were
directed toward the unemployment line in Cleveland. Everything
else that wasn't nailed down--phones, sofas, even the guard
shack from the practice facility parking lot--was packed into 24
moving vans and shipped to Baltimore as ordered. Somebody,
though, forgot to label the football team. Like a favorite lamp
or chair, it appears to have been lost in the move.
Shipping his team to Baltimore brought Art Modell the kind of
quickie cash that paid for his $2 million mansion in the swanky
Baltimore suburb of Laurelford, Md. Complete with 7 1/2 baths,
this is the perfect abode for Modell, who pretty much flushed
away his football team in the process of ripping it out of
After the announcement to move the franchise was made last
November, the club many thought would make a run at the Super
Bowl went 1-6 to finish the season with a 5-11 record. Modell
then fired coach Bill Belichick and forced out personnel
director Mike Lombardi. Without a coach or a G.M., the newly
named Ravens lost eight free agents and did not sign a single
significant replacement. The roster is now full of expensive but
average talent, with little room under the salary cap to
negotiate with draft picks.
The move to Baltimore also left the Ravens bumping into each
other in the cramped confines of their temporary training
facility, a former police academy in Owings Mills, Md. "It's a
little primitive now," said Modell in May. "In all honesty,
we're behind. How fast we catch up, only time will tell." To add
to the jailhouse atmosphere, the team ran minicamp wearing
generic black-and-white uniforms. "Our uniforms will not look
like this, I can guarantee you," said wideout Andre Rison. "I'll
get a crayon and do some work on them before I wear this." (The
team's purple-and-black colors and new raven's-wing emblem were
unveiled in June.)
July 31, 1996
Playing with crayons should not be a stretch for Rison, who
established himself as the biggest thumb-sucker in the NFL last
year. After signing a five-year, $17 million deal, Rison
responded by catching just three TDs while polluting the team's
chemistry with his frequent tantrums. Rison's outbursts were
mostly aimed at quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who as a result
was benched temporarily in favor of rookie Eric Zeier.
Testaverde, who has averaged 21 interceptions per year since
1988, is still coach Ted Marchibroda's choice to run the Ravens'
The attack's featured rushers will be 34-year-old Earnest Byner,
fullback Leroy Hoard and second-year player Earnest Hunter. That
threesome combined for two rushing touchdowns last year. They'll
have the luxury of running behind a line that boasts three of
the best young blockers in the league. Center Steve Everitt is a
future Pro Bowl snapper; 6'7", 340-pound right tackle Orlando
Brown is the largest player in franchise history; and
first-round choice Jonathan Ogden, the 1996 Outland Trophy
winner, averaged 13 knockdown blocks per game last season at UCLA.
Quick turnarounds are Marchibroda's signature. He took the
Baltimore Colts to the playoffs just a year after their 2-12
season in 1974 and turned a 1-15 free fall by the Indy Colts in
1991 into a 9-7 finish the next year. And, of course, he guided
Indianapolis to within a Hail Mary of the Super Bowl last
season. "Unlike past situations, this is not a rebuilding job,"
he says. "This team can win right away. Pittsburgh is the
favorite in the conference, but they have lost some talent. So
why not us?"
Marchibroda has hung banners bearing that slogan--WHY NOT
US?--around the Ravens' complex. Why not Baltimore? Well, for
starters, new defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, the former
Steelers linebackers coach, is trying to install a blitzing
defense without half the talent needed to pull that off. Though
the Ravens are strong up front with ends Rob Burnett and Anthony
Pleasant (30 sacks combined over the last two seasons), there's
some question whether linebackers Pepper Johnson and Craig
Powell, who missed most of his rookie season with a knee injury
last year, can do the job. It will be up to 32-year-old
cornerback Don Griffin and free safety Eric Turner, 27, who
missed half of 1995 with a neck injury, to patch coverage holes
in a defense that ranked 24th in the league.
"I know this team has the work ethic," says Marchibroda. "Now I
want to see if they still know how and want to win."
Sorry, but it looks as if someone forgot to pack that, too.
BY THE NUMBERS
1995 Yards per Game (NFL rank in parentheses)
Rushing Passing Total
OFFENSE 92.6 (22) 224.6 (14) 317.3 (21)
DEFENSE 114.1 (20) 238.9 (24) 353.0 (24)
New Baltimore coach Ted Marchibroda, 65, is the oldest
head-coaching hire in NFL history. He breaks the mark of the
legendary Bud Wilkinson, who was 62 when he coached his first
game with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1978.
Oldest Head Coaches Hired by an NFL Team
Birth date First game Age at first game
Ravens March 15, 1931 Sept. 1, 1996 65 yrs., 5 mos.
Cardinals April 23, 1916 Sept. 3, 1978 62 yrs., 4 mos.
Patriots Aug. 2, 1928 Sept. 9, 1990 62 yrs., 1 mo.
Oilers Oct. 26, 1911 Oct. 21, 1973 61 yrs., 11 mos.
Bills Aug. 3, 1925 Nov. 9, 1986 61 yrs., 3 mos.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Last season, before Earnest Hunter had even lined up for his
first pro snap, his offensive coordinator, Steve Crosby, paid
the free-agent tailback a tremendous compliment. "Thurman Thomas
had great quickness, acceleration and power [as a rookie]," said
Crosby. "This kid's got all those things." The 5'8", 201-pound
back out of Southeast Oklahoma State led the NAIA with 1,899
yards rushing in 1994. Though he fumbled three times in 30
rushes as a rookie, Hunter is convinced he has the drive to
succeed in the NFL. "I get criticized for being a real small
back, and I don't weigh a lot," says Hunter. "But my heart
weighs more than I do."
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
Head coach: Ted Marchibroda
QB Vinny Testaverde 392 att. 241 comp. 61.5% 2,883 yds.
17 TDs 10 int. 87.8 rtg.
RB Earnest Byner 115 att. 432 yds. 2 TDs
FB Leroy Hoard 136 att. 547 yds. 0 TDs
TE Brian Kinchen[**] 36 rec. 419 yds. 4 TDs
WR Andre Rison 47 rec. 701 yds. 3 TDs
WR Michael Jackson 44 rec. 714 yds. 9 TDs
WR Derrick Alexander 15 rec. 216 yds. 0 TDs
LT Tony Jones 6'5" 295 lbs.
LG Jonathan Ogden (R)[**] 6'8" 318 lbs.
C Steve Everitt 6'5" 290 lbs.
RG Jeff Blackshear[**] 6'6" 323 lbs.
RT Orlando Brown 6'7" 340 lbs.
PK Matt Stover 26/26 XPs 29/33 FGs
LE Rob Burnett 71/2 sacks 1 fum. rec.
LT Larry Webster 0 sacks 0 fum. rec.
RT Dan Footman 5 sacks 1 fum. rec.
RE Anthony Pleasant 8 sacks 0 fum. rec.
OLB Craig Powell 0 sacks 0 int.
MLB Pepper Johnson 2 sacks 2 int.
OLB Mike Caldwell 0 sacks 2 int.
CB Antonio Langham 2 int. 0 sacks
SS Stevon Moore 5 int. 1 sack
FS Eric Turner 0 int. 0 sacks
CB Don Griffin 1 int. 0 sacks
P Greg Montgomery*[**] 63 punts 44.2 avg.
PR Derrick Alexander 9 ret. 13.6 avg.
KR Earnest Hunter 23 ret. 22.1 avg.
[**]New acquisition (R) Rookie (college statistics)