- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 2004

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens are thinking about taking their anemic passing game to “Prime Time.”

With starting wide receiver Travis Taylor expected to miss at least the next four games with a groin injury, coach Brian Billick is entertaining the idea of using cornerback Deion Sanders in certain passing situations.

“Possibly, but there again we can’t let one problem cascade into difficulties someplace else,” Billick said. “We’ll definitely move towards that, but I don’t want to do it at a pace that puts Deion at risk — either mentally or physically — based on his primary obligation, which is our secondary.”

With just four healthy receivers on the roster, including rookies Devard Darling and Clarence Moore, the Ravens are severely lacking big-play options on the outside. Eight-time Pro Bowl pick Sanders has delivered countless big plays over his 13-year career. The problem, of course, is that he’s 37 and had not played since 2000 before ending his retirement to join the Ravens.

“I welcome that,” Sanders said of playing some offense. “Hopefully we work on some things this week, and I get an opportunity to make some things happen offensively.”

Even at his advanced football age, Sanders says he still can strike fear in opponents.

“Once I get the ball in my hands, I know what to do with it — those aspects, just the knowledge of the game,” Sanders said.

The Ravens had the lowest-rated passing game in the league last season, averaging just 140.9 yards a game. For a team that has Super Bowl ambitions, that simply won’t do.

In Sunday’s 20-3 upset by Cleveland, the Browns’ defense dominated Baltimore. Star running back Jamal Lewis rushed for only 57 yards on 20 carries. Although second-year quarterback Kyle Boller completed 22 of 38 passes for 191 yards, he failed to get the Ravens into the end zone, threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.

For now, the Ravens have no intentions of signing another wide receiver. Randy Hymes, a third-year man out of Grambling State, will start in place of Taylor. But if Hymes, who missed all of last season with a blown ACL, can’t produce, the Ravens might be tempted to call on Sanders just to have some semblance of a vertical threat.

Boller, 23, grew up watching the flashy Sanders excel as a return man and defensive back. Boller conceded he hasn’t thrown to Sanders during or after practice, but said of the possibility, “I’m kind of a young guy and he’s kind of an older guy, so it will be cool. He’s a heck of a player. When he gets the ball in his hands, he does special things.”

Sanders, for one, sounded content to leave the decision up to Billick.

“You have to understand, I want to help this team any way possible,” Sanders said. “If that means catching more punts, helping on defense, or even if I just got to clear out things and let [two-time Pro Bowl tight end] Todd Heap come up under me, that’s what I want to do.”

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