Surprise! Surprise!

The Ravens are in San Diego after leaving Baltimore two days early to avoid Hurricane Isabel. They will practice at SDSU on Thursday in preparation for the game on Sunday.<br><br> The question remains: will the Bolts play like a cornered raccoon at 0-2?<br><br> Coach Brian Billick's recent praise of one particular player should shock San Diego Chargers fans.

Chargers fans know this man as, "Wide Righty". Yet, in Baltimore, he is dead on. In 2001, Richey went 21-32 on field goals, and Steve Christie eventually replaced him.

In 2002, he was the primary kickoff man. In fact, that was his only duty. Kick the ball off, and kick it deep. Richey had 16 touchbacks for the year used exclusively on kickoffs. Just as many times if not more he had kicks that defied explanation.

Richey had been so bad that on one kickoff he kicked the ground before making contact with the ball. A number of times this year he kicked the ball out of bounds, a play that gives the opposition prime field position at the 40 yard line. In the Denver game he had a number of bad kicks in a row. A day later he was cut.

Now in Baltimore, Richey is a cult hero.

"Wade is here because of the incredibly strong leg," said Billick.

He has already kicked a 56 yard field goal, a Ravens record, occurring last week against Cleveland.

"Once we get into a situation where it appears to be just a little outside of Matt Stover's range, and that's not a criticism of Matt, because he is the most accurate kicker in the game today at a certain range. Outside of that range, since he is up anyway for the kickoffs, and that has worked very well for us in terms of keeping teams pinned down."

Richey has two touchbacks in ten kickoffs and the coverage unit is limiting returns to a paltry 20.2 average.

"Even those that don't go out of the end zone, have got such height on them, the coverage is excellent. Our special teams have played very well the last two weeks. It's great to have that weapon."

Much like minor league baseball players, sometimes it takes a change of scenery for a player to regain form. The early indications show Richey has done just that.

The Ravens have to be confident about heading to San Diego to face an 0-2 team that cannot stop the run game.

At the same token, the Chargers have to feel this is do or die. They head to Oakland the following week and can ill afford to lose this game. Desperation may win out.

"Whether it's 0-2 or 2-0, it's tough going west, just because we're going to be getting up at an odd time, we're going to be playing at an odd time for us," said Billick. "We're going to try to keep it on an East Coast mentality. As I said before, an 0-2 Marty Schottenheimer team is not going to go 0-3 without one hellacious fight."

Good signs have happened this week. David Boston is practicing, Baltimore had to travel out early and the team is hungry to get into the win column.

"You are not going to put a Marty Schottenheimer-coached team at 0-3 without one hell of a fight. It's just not going to happen. Marty is too good of a coach, too much history there and too much discipline. Like any of the 0-2 teams, I imagine they feel that sense that ‘we are backed up and we have to fight our way out of that.' The fact that we have to go across the entire country to do it, it's going to be a slugfest on Sunday because they are not going to go down lightly into an 0-3 hole."

So the fight begins, and the Chargers, in their throwback uniforms, must come out swinging, or the circling birds will mark them for dead.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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