- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 21, 2001

WESTMINSTER, Md. The Baltimore Ravens' starting offensive line has turned into a M*A*S*H unit.
Starting left guard Edwin Mulitalo became the latest casualty when he gingerly walked off the Ravens' Western Maryland College practice field with a right knee injury. With the 6-foot-3, 340-pound Mulitalo leaving practice early, that makes three starting offensive linemen who are dinged up and two tackles Leon Searcy and Jonathan Ogden are former Pro Bowl performers.
The Ravens don't consider Mulitalo's injury serious, and yesterday declined to send the guard for an MRI.
"You just got to keep going, this season is not going to stop for anybody whether you are hurt or not hurt," said versatile Ravens offensive lineman Kipp Vickers. "There are still games that have to be played. We want everybody back, we want everybody healthy. [Other teams] don't care. The other teams when they line up against you across the field, they really don't care who it is in front of them."
Injuries have forced coach Brian Billick to temporarily reshuffle his line. Ogden is listed as day-to-day, but is definitely out for Thursday's home preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. Ogden, who is a four-time Pro Bowl starter, sprained his left ankle in the Ravens' first offensive series in Saturday's 16-3 preseason loss to the New York Jets. Ogden, a 6-8, 340-pounder from Washington, walked with a noticeable limp yesterday.
Right tackle Searcy, who the Ravens signed as a free agent from the Jacksonville Jaguars, is out until at least midseason with torn triceps.
Billick said his offensive line was one of the team's strengths last season, when rookie Jamal Lewis rushed for a team record 1,364 yards. Because of an outstanding running game, the Ravens led the NFL in time of possession (33:19), which kept their record-setting defense off the field.
Billick was forced to juggle his offensive line a bit last season because of injuries to right tackle Harry Swayne and center Jeff Mitchell. In Saturday's preseason game, Billick switched Vickers from right guard to left tackle when Ogden went down and inserted rookie Bennie Anderson (6-5, 305) at right guard.
"Our strength last year was that we had six, seven and eight [offensive linemen], and it's going to have to be that again," Billick said. "You've got to move people around. Kipp Vickers did not take a snap at tackle all of training camp and has to go out and play tackle. That's the way this works."
Communication and timing are critical for any offensive line's success. With Ravens reserves being asked to possibly finish the preseason for injured starters, it remains to be seen how cohesive the line will be for the Sept. 9 season opener against the Chicago Bears.
"Hopefully, things will work out like last year when we had those injuries," center Mike Flynn said. "It was tough going, we were moving the ball a little bit, but we were not scoring. As soon as everybody came back, we clicked and won 11 straight. We can adjust and we we get guys back, we know how to get going in the right direction."
Notes The Ravens waived free agent punter Noel Prefontaine yesterday so he can continue his career in the CFL. Prefontaine, who was a longshot to make the team, punted for the XFL champion Los Angeles Xtreme and led the defunct league with 35 punts for 1,485 yards, an average of 42.4 yards. By waiving Prefontaine, the Ravens roster stands at 80 players, and the team has one week to cut down to 65 players before the Aug. 28 deadline… . Billick said injured cornerback Duane Starks (knee) will not play the remainder of the preseason, but will be ready for the season opener… . Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen attended yesterday's practice.


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