Hymes impressing Ravens' coaches

OWINGS MILLS – The football lofted high into the air, hovering a few feet above Randy Hymes' helmet.

And the Baltimore Ravens' imposing wide receiver leapt to haul in an acrobatic reception over his shoulders Thursday night at Giants Stadium.

It was another signal that Hymes' knee is fully healed after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament a year ago, and that he's established himself as the top candidate to be the Ravens' third wide receiver.

"As far as doing the things I could do before I got hurt last year, making big plays, making things happen, yes, I consider myself back," said Hymes, who started and caught a team-high four passes for 55 yards as Travis Taylor sat out with a groin injury. "I feel good. I'll be happy to have the starters' back, if that's what the coaches want."

What the Ravens' coaching staff and quarterback Kordell Stewart wanted to do during the final minutes of the first half of a 27-17 win was this: throw the football three consecutive times to Hymes, a converted quarterback at Grambling entering his third NFL season.

Stewart found Hymes for 9 yards twice in a row. Then, he located him behind Curtis DeLoach for a 32-yard sideline reception down to the Giants' 6. On the ensuing play, running back Musa Smith busted in for a touchdown.

"Outstanding," was Ravens coach Brian Billick's assessment of Hymes. "Randy just keeps on making plays. He has only had so many opportunities this preseason. Remember, last preseason he had a great one for us and then went down.

"Randy is still learning what this game is about and what this position is about. So, it's kind of exciting for him."

Hymes started twice as a rookie and caught six passes for 123 yards, leading the team with 20.5 yards per catch. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002, he caught two passes for 76 yards, including a one-handed 33-yard effort on 3rd-and-11.

After a long year of rehabbing his knee, Hymes has worked his way back to the point where he'll likely be a red-zone and intermediate option in relief of Taylor and flanker Kevin Johnson.

Meanwhile, third-round draft pick Devard Darling's nagging quadriceps injury has kept him from competing with Hymes for the last few weeks.

Darling's presence, and contract, makes Hymes aware that nothing is guaranteed, but he said he's simply happy to be back on a football field.

"I've still got a long ways to go," Hymes said. "I want to do this in a regular-season game. I know it's week to week as far as proving yourself, but this was nice."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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