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Ravenous for Football
Kelly Whiteside
August 12, 1996
To Baltimore Colts fans who had been singing the blues for 12 years, the Ravens' preseason opener was sweet music
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August 12, 1996

Ravenous For Football

To Baltimore Colts fans who had been singing the blues for 12 years, the Ravens' preseason opener was sweet music

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Only in Baltimore.... Vinny Testaverde, probably the most maligned quarterback in football, is treated like the second coming of Johnny Unitas. Just about every kid who wore a Ravens jersey last Saturday wore Testaverde's number 12.

Only in Baltimore.... The team's fans don't seem to notice that the front-office troika—vice presidents David Modell and Ozzie Newsome and financial officer Pat Moriarty—bear a close resemblance to the Three Stooges. First, they gave rookie offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden an unbelievably generous contract: a $6.79 million signing bonus and a $15.4 million salary over seven years, an unprecedented amount for the fourth pick in the draft and more than the New York Jets offered wideout Keyshawn Johnson, the No. 1 pick. Then, citing salary-cap concerns, the Ravens cut veteran linebacker Pepper Johnson and receiver Andre Rison. And when the Ravens signed Indianapolis receiver Floyd Turner, who, with Calvin Williams, will try to replace Rison, they failed to file the appropriate paperwork with the NFL, for which they could be fined or docked a draft pick. The fans don't seem to notice these front-office bungles because all that matters right now is that football is back.

So it was a wonderful end to a new beginning on Saturday when a rookie from nearby Lanham, Md., turned out to be the star. Receiver Jermaine Lewis, the team's fifth-round pick out of Maryland, returned a punt 75 yards down the left sideline with 2:08 remaining to put the Ravens up by eight.

At the end of the game the fans cheered as if it were 1958 and Unitas had just beaten the New York Giants in sudden death for the NFL title. The usually undemonstrative Testaverde tipped his baseball cap and pointed appreciatively at the crowd. Several players threw their sweaty gloves, towels and wristbands to a throng gathered near their locker room entrance.

A few minutes later receiver Michael Jackson, who scored the first touchdown in Ravens history, explained why he had then handed the ball to a fan sitting behind the end zone. "It's the least I could do," said Jackson. "They've waited 12 years for this."

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