Returner Coming Down to the Wire

12f812330f334d1388b98da28b0b0fbd.jpg


The battle for the pecking order among Baltimore's kick returners seems to be light on combatants.

With only two preseason games to go, Chris Carr is obviously leading the pack. He's returned three punts for 29 yards and two kickoffs for 36 yards in the preseason.

Rookie Lardarius Webb has two of each.

Yamon Figurs, the Ravens' main returner for most of 2008, can barely get a chance to fight for the job. He and first-year player Jayson Foster own only one punt return each.

Head coach John Harbaugh considers it a hazard of the position.

"The other guys are going to have to take a back seat to that and get their reps where they can get them," Harbaugh said. "We're trying to get all those guys in and take a look at them. We know Chris Carr is going to be here. Lardarius Webb is in our plans at this point, and then we just have to get those guys ready and go from there."

That creates an uphill climb for Figurs and Foster.

Figurs began last year as the primary returner of both punts and kickoffs, but was eventually relieved of his punt return duties by mid-season in favor of Jim Leonhard. The Ravens also rotated more players in for kickoffs to find a spark somewhere on the roster.

Meanwhile, Foster wants a shot at returner, as well. A former college quarterback and receiver, Foster has impressed coaches with his hands and speed in training camp.

The Ravens have used both Foster and Figurs to shag kicks during practice, but the game reps have obviously been rare.

"To get game reps, I believe it is [difficult], because you don't really control the reps in the game," said special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. "That's why our practices are so important, because you can control the reps in the practice. As the game unwinds, you kind of make some decisions during the course of the game: 'Well, we need to get this guy a rep or that guy a rep.'

"One of the other things that's factored in is how much you know about the players. The players you don't know about as much, you want to see more in game situations because you've seen others do that."

Carr, who signed a two-year contract this offseason, understands the plight of the coaches. He started his career with the Oakland Raiders, and after three years there, he became the franchise's all-time leading kickoff return leader, with 201 career attempts for 4,481 yards (24.1-yard average).

As a Tennessee Titan last year, he was one of the NFL's best.

But still, the Ravens coaches have given him most of the chances in games to get a feel for what he brings to the purple and black.

"You really can't simulate full-speed special teams in practice," Carr said. "There is nothing like live games. A lot of times, your reputation as a returner just comes from your past history."

The Ravens are looking for Webb to continue to rebound after he lost a fumble on a kickoff Monday night against the New York Jets that led to a field goal.

The Nicholls State product eventually made a game-saving play when he batted down a pass in the end zone to thwart a two-point conversion try with 30 seconds left.

"I have seen a lot of good things about him, and the thing I really appreciated about his performance the other night is that during the course of the ball game, things didn't work real well for him in the one particular play, but he kept playing," Rosburg noted. "That's a sign of a competitor, and he is the kind of guy we like around here. He had the opportunity at the end of the game to win it, and he did it."

Where does that leave Figurs and Foster – at least when returns are concerned? Unless there is an abnormal amount of kicks Saturday night against the Carolina Panthers, they could be in a tough spot.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising