Veteran wideouts showing younger Ravens the way

OWINGS MILLS - When citing the strengths of receivers Frank Sanders and Marcus Robinson, the Baltimore Ravens often make reference to their size, athleticism and experience. The caveat, of course, has been their spotty health. One element displayed by the veteran wideouts during the Ravens' minicamp has been their savvy.

Example A: Robinson selling rookie cornerback Artie Smith on a fly route, spinning the defender completely around then cutting off his pattern for a shorter completion.

Example B: Sanders using an exaggerated stutter step to his left before redirecting inside to his right by pushing off for several receptions across the middle.

Signed as free agents from the Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears, respectively, Sanders and Robinson are both former 1,000-yard receivers and Pro Bowl alternates.

"Their reputation and record speaks for itself," incumbent receiver Travis Taylor said Saturday afternoon. "To have those guys on the team, it's a huge plus."

Last season, Baltimore ranked 27th in the league in passing yards per game with a 177.9 average with only 20 touchdown passes. Besides Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap and Taylor's combined total of 129 catches for 1,705 yards and 12 touchdowns, the remaining receivers on the roster from last season - Randy Hymes, Ron Johnson and Javin Hunter - combined for just 21 receptions for 272 yards.

"Just working with the guys, you can tell their reference frame as to what they need to do, the ability to communicate, understanding coverages," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "The young guys are benefiting a lot from watching them work as well."

In Sanders, 30, the Ravens brought in a player who slumped to 34 receptions for 400 yards and two touchdowns last season before being placed on injured reserve with a nagging foot problem. In 1998, Sanders caught 89 passes to rank second in the NFL and has career totals of 493 catches for 6,579 yards and 24 touchdowns. Robinson, 28, finished last season behind Marty Booker, David Terrell and Dez White on the Bears' depth chart.

Since a breakthrough 1999 season with 84 catches for 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns, his statistics have been in decline. A back ailment placed him on injured reserve in 2000, and he tore his left knee's anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligament in 2001.

They're both hoping to get back on track in Baltimore while acting as mentors for the younger receivers.

"Having an example is always the key in this league," Robinson said. "I think we have a lot of young guys who are hungry and eager to learn."

ANDERSON EXCUSED: Offensive guard Bennie Anderson was excused from practice for undisclosed personal reasons. Billick wasn't certain if Anderson would return for today's final session.

"Bennie has some unfortunate issues that he has to take care of at home," Billick said. "Certainly, with Bennie's experience if he would miss this minicamp that wouldn't affect him too adversely."

INJURY FRONT: Defensive back Tom Knight, who injured his groin Friday, was held out of Saturday's workouts.

"He just tweaked it a little bit," Billick said. "Because of the surface, because it was wet, we just wanted to be very careful."

Inside linebacker Ed Hartwell (back) was on the sidelines, too, but his injury isn't deemed serious.

SCOUTING MOVES: Esteemed West Coast scout Art Perkins and East Coast supervisor Terry McDonough have both accepted positions with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the personnel department headed by former Ravens director of pro personnel James Harris.

McDonough takes on the title of executive scout with the Jaguars, where he'll concentrate on identifying the top college players nationally, and Perkins will continue to concentrate on his same region.

"I have a lot of faith in James Harris and Jack Del Rio," McDonough said from his home in North Carolina. "It's a great job, but it was really hard for me to leave Baltimore."

The Ravens have interviewed Arizona Cardinals scout Steve Keim, also reportedly being considered for the Cardinals' director of college scouting position.

Baltimore hasn't announced any promotions yet, but is likely to select from within its qualified pool of area scouts and player personnel assistants.

QUICK HITS: Ravens special teams coach Gary Zauner revived his unique brand of drills involving a collection of blocking sleds, tackling dummies and obstacles. A few of the players became so dizzy they lost their balance. … Receiver Ron Johnson managed to snare a pass deflected by Anthony Mitchell for a diving touchdown catch. He emphatically spiked the football.

Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times.

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