Ravens news and notes I

A year ago, Devard Darling started the Ravens' preseason opener. Now, the second-year receiver is fighting to get onto the field.

Darling's standing on the team is the result of a major overhaul of the Ravens' receiving corps. The Ravens replaced underachievers like Travis Taylor and Kevin Johnson and replaced them with a big-name free agent in Derrick Mason and a first-round draft pick in Mark Clayton.

That leaves Darling fighting against Clarence Moore for the No. 3 spot.

"The only person who can stop me is me," Darling said. "I have all the physical attributes. The Lord has blessed me with everything I need to succeed. It's just up to me to transfer it on the field. It's all a mind-set. It's going to happen."

The Ravens hope Darling can show the coaches that he has recovered fully from a season-ending heel injury and still can become the playmaker that the team envisioned last season.

Team officials said most of the receiver positions are wide open.

"Everybody knows in sports, you have to earn the spots," receivers coach David Shaw said. "Derrick Mason has a spot and everyone else has to earn theirs. We want Mark Clayton to play when he shows he's ready to play. The same goes for Randy, Clarence and Devard. It's great they all understand that and they're all out here working, fighting and competing."

The Ravens made a solid investment in Darling last year, trading a fifth-round pick to move up six spots and draft the Washington State junior in the third round.

But injuries severely limited his rookie season, which amounted to one catch for 7 yards in the preseason and two catches for 5 yards in the regular season.

"When you just watch him as an athlete, he's bigger than anybody that we've had here as a receiver but he's also fast," Shaw said of the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Darling. "He's got strength, he's got quickness and he's got agility. It's roping all those abilities into being an NFL receiver. It's getting better at running routes and making plays consistently."

Darling played in three games before being placed on injured reserve Oct. 29. He suffered from plantar fasciitis (an injury to the tissue on the bottom of the foot), which had the potential to become a stress fracture.

After rehabilitating the injury all winter, Darling said he didn't get back to full strength until March.

"When the injury happened, it went all downhill from there," Darling said. "You have to take the good out of any trial. If you don't, where would you be in this life? Life is a bunch of ups and downs. I've got to get back up and get going."


--Backup offensive tackle Adam Terry, a rookie second-round pick, had a pin removed that stabilized a broken finger. He had worn a protective wrap over it for the past two minicamps.

"I was pretty much bait for one-on-one pass rush," Terry said.

--Undrafted rookie linebacker Tyson Smith recently lost his defensive playbook when his mother's car was broken into in the driveway of a neighbor's home in Des Moines.

Smith said he called the Ravens as soon as he learned of the theft.

"They said that things like that have happened before," he told The Des Moines Register, "but I could tell they weren't real happy that it happened. I don't know if they can cut me or not, but I don't think that's going to happen. They pretty much know it's not my fault."

--Cornerback Deion Sanders said he is leaning toward keeping No. 37, which he wore for the first time last season to match his age. "Some people were saying you should do 38 but I'm thinking I'm going to stay with 37," he said.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The next six weeks are very important, and they understand that. Each player has a specific time frame and plan about what they're going to do between now and training camp. But keep in mind, they need some time away from the game. The advances they've made in the last six weeks can be matched in the next six weeks. Our veterans understand that. There are some young players that can impact this team that have to learn what that's about. Hopefully, they got the message." -- Coach Brian Billick on his parting message to his team after the final minicamp practice.


Ravens Insider Top Stories