Ravens don't want to be Vick-tims

Michael Vick moves at the speed of thought. He has a cannon for an arm. He possesses rocket boosters for legs. Enlightened football people say the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback will revolutionize the game of football. That resembles the traditional hype that television studios and advertising campaigns generate for any exciting young athlete. Usually, those are empty words impossible for any athlete to live up to.

In Vick's case, fawning words and admiration for the top overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft extend well past his billboards and public appearances in the vicinity of the Georgia Dome.

Glowing words about his budding talent have filtered down to another locale: the Baltimore Ravens' locker room. That's a place where genuine puzzlement over how to defend the elusive former Virginia Tech star seems to truly exist entering Sunday's road game against the Falcons.

"I'm praying," Ravens outside linebacker Cornell Brown, a former Hokie just like Vick, said with a smile. "I hope he trips and falls down or gets kidnapped on the way to the stadium. I need to lose a few pounds this week to chase him down."

It's appropriate enough for Brown to joke that way considering Vick has passed for 959 yards, four touchdowns and a 93.9 quarterback rating while rushing for 367 yards and four touchdowns for a staggering 9.0 average per carry. Vick is even uncannily accurate, completing 62.2 percent of his passes with zero interceptions.

How will the Ravens, who struggled to mount a semblance of a pass rush against statuesque Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox, do against the versatile Vick?

"What a unique talent," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Michael Vick is in a totally different category with all due respect to Steve McNair and Kordell Stewart, who are both excellent in that capacity.

"Maybe Randall Cunningham is the only one that comes to mind that adds that dimension that a Michael Vick does. I don't know that you can equate him to anything else."

Concern over Vick's multi-dimensional capabilities has spread like a plague. Especially without the services of injured All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

 "Vick is scary," defensive end Adalius Thomas said. "He has a cannon for an arm and he runs as fast as a running back. We just have to take the proper angles, stay in our rush lanes and hope to contain him."

Keeping Vick from roaming wherever he pleases on the heightened speed of the Georgia Dome artificial turf is a quandary considering that the Ravens mounted just one sack against the Steelers. Vick has been sacked 16 times, although many of them have occurred when he was dancing around looking for a receiver to break open downfield.

"It's just a matter of us beating a guy and getting to the quarterback," said nose guard Kelly Gregg, who has one sack. "We take it personally."

Outside linebacker Peter Boulware leads the Ravens with five sacks followed by veteran end Michael McCrary's pair of sacks against the Denver Broncos. McCrary will be held out against the Falcons, because turf is like Kryptonite for his ailing knees.

 "The pass rush is what it is," Billick said. "In terms of the pass rush, Peter is doing all that he can."

Plus, Vick rambled for 91 yards and a score and a 15.0 average in Sunday's 37-35 victory over the New Orleans Saints and his quarterback cousin, Aaron Brooks. Vick accounted for 277 total yards. Running back Warrick Dunn, another perplexing Falcons speedster, rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown.

As the league's rushing leader among quarterbacks, Vick burst through the Saints' defense for a 32-yard touchdown run that boosted the Falcons' lead to 34-25 in the fourth quarter.

Some teams have resorted to spying Vick wherever he goes with a speedy defender like the Chicago Bears' middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Results have been pretty one-sided thus far.

Billick doesn't want to bear witness to a similar spectacle and become another Vick-tim.

"You can eventually think that you are going to blitz a young quarterback or put pressure on him," Billick said. "If you miss, he's out of the gate. He is truly unique and that's rare that you can use that term for an NFL athlete. "He's unique, so you have to take unconventional approaches to deal with him."

NOTE: The Baltimore Ravens signed another former New England Patriots defensive lineman off the waiver wire by adding end David Nugent. The club released rookie Howard Green to make room for Nugent, a 6-foot-4, 295-pounder third-year professional who will wear No. 70.

Nugent was drafted in the sixth round out of Purdue by New England in the 2000 NFL Draft and started one game last season for the Super Bowl champions. Riddick Parker is the other former Patriot who was added to line coach Rex Ryan's rotation.


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