Ravens set for reunion with Taylor, Robinson

OWINGS MILLS -- When Baltimore Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister stares across the line Sunday night at the Minnesota Vikings' wide receivers, he'll probably experience a major case of déjà vu. With former Baltimore starters Travis Taylor and Marcus Robinson playing for the Vikings, it will practically resemble a practice session from years past at the Ravens' training complex.

"We know them well, but they've changed some," McAlister said. "It should be interesting."

Since the Ravens declined to offer Taylor a contract in the offseason after five inconsistent seasons since being drafted 10th overall in 2000, he has surfaced as a starter in Minnesota. He's the Vikings' second-leading receiver with 42 receptions for 496 yards and two touchdowns.

"At first, I wasn't really enamored of him because I had heard he was just a slot receiver and I was like, ‘I don't want a guy that's one-dimensional,'" Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "The coaches pressed me to take another look at him. The one thing we noticed is that he is very hard to press on the line of scrimmage.

"You don't become a top 10 pick in this league if you don't have some talent and skills. He has a lot going for him. We were really fortunate to pick him up."

Robinson, who caught four touchdowns in the second half of a 2003 win over the Seattle Seahawks, left the Ravens in 2004 while they were tied up with Terrell Owens in a trade that was eventually nullified. He leads the Vikings with five touchdown catches and an average of 17 yards per catch.

"It's tough," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of playing against Taylor. "You bring them into the league and kind of raise them, but it's good to see them again and good to see them doing well. It's part of life in the NFL."

McAlister has maintained his friendship with Taylor who never lived up to expectations in Baltimore after a standout career at the University of Florida.

"Travis is a good player and I always thought he was capable," McAlister said. "Now, he has his shot in Minnesota and it has turned out well for him."

RETURN GAME IN FLUX: Since return specialist B.J. Sams will be a game-time decision with a knee injury that has kept him out of practice all week, rookie wide receiver Mark Clayton is preparing to return punts and kickoffs.

"Mark is ready to go," Billick said. "It's something we wanted to get to and gives us a chance to see Mark in that capacity."

At Oklahoma, Clayton returned a punt for a touchdown and averaged 14.4 yards per return with a 20-yard average on six kickoffs.

"It's a good chance for me to get the ball in my hands and make some plays for the team," said Clayton, who leads all rookie receivers with 36 receptions. "I've been getting ready all year long just in case they needed me. It's exciting."

TRAINING ROOM: The Ravens downgraded rookie linebacker Mike Smith (hamstring) to doubtful.

Fullback Justin Green is expected to play a significant amount of snaps after missing the past few games with a broken wrist.

QUICK HITS: When asked if he was concerned about losing his job, Billick replied: "Anybody that isn't concerned with that aspect of this profession is naïve." Billick received a strong vote of confidence from McAlister. "We are behind him 110 percent," he said. "The decisions he has made as a coach have definitely helped us and benefited us as players. Unfortunately, our record doesn't indicate that, but we have complete faith that everything he does will put us in position to win." … Billick challenged fans to attend the game despite the conflict with the Christmas holiday. "What else are you going to do on Christmas night?" Billick said. "You got your belly full and you've got all the presents opened." … It's unlikely after this underachieving season that the Ravens will be scheduled for any prime-time games next season. "That's probably a pretty good bet," Billick said. ... Vikings wide receiver Koren Robinson was in a substance-abuse rehab facility in August and was selected to the Pro Bowl this week for his work as a kick returner. "Looking back on being in the rehab facility, I was thinking that I would never play football again because I thought I had burned all my bridges," Robinson said. "It's emotional. I am more mature and have a new found respect for life, a different perspective on life."


In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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