An undrafted free agent from McNeese State (La.) who has two metal pins in
his left thumb, Sams will return punts followed by rookie cornerback Lance Frazier and incumbent return specialist Lamont Brightful. Brightful will return
kickoffs again, followed by Sams.
"I worked him out down at his school and my comment was, ‘He was the best punt
catcher I had seen in a long time since David Palmer,'" said Zauner, comparing
Sams to the versatile former Minnesota Vikings' standout. "Now, can he do it
when the lights are on and how well can he return it when he gets a chance to
return? He had some great numbers playing for his school."
Sams averaged 11 yards per punt return with three touchdowns and 24.6 yards per
kickoff in three seasons. He totaled 4,903 all-purpose yards with 19 touchdowns.
Most importantly for a return game that has endured Brightful's fumbling issues,
Sams has been especially sure-handed in practice.
"Counting minicamps and all, I think it was 23 straight days he had not dropped
a punt, a kick or an offensive pass," Zauner said. "He was the only guy who had
a record going where he hadn't dropped anything, and you had defensive guys like
Ray Lewis and Ed Reed making comments that we don't have anyone who can cover
him out of the backfield."
Zauner stressed that it remains an open competition in the return game between
Brightful, Sams and Frazier. Randy Hymes and Reed are emergency options.
"We need someone to show up that can do that on a consistent basis," Ravens
coach Brian Billick said.
Brightful said he isn't flustered by the situation, adding that being tested has
heightened his motivation.
"I'm going out there to show what I can do," said Brightful, who fumbled against
the Atlanta Falcons and was replaced on punt returns last week by Frazier. "I
think they know what I can do, but I'm working hard to prove myself again."
TRAINING ROOM: Billick is optimistic about the availability of rookie receiver
Devard Darling (quadriceps), but doubtful about Travis Taylor (groin).
Cornerback Fred Weary (quadriceps) returned to practice, but was limited.
Quarterback Anthony Wright (shoulder), linebacker Peter Boulware (knee),
cornerback Corey Fuller (bruised lower leg), return specialist Derek Abney
(shoulder), defensive end Tony Weaver (high ankle sprain), tight end Todd Heap
(bruised shoulder) and tight end Trent Smith (leg) didn't practice.
Defensive end Marques Douglas (dislocated elbow) is practicing and won't play
Saturday, but hopes to return for the Ravens' first regular-season game.
"Marques is tougher than hell," defensive line coach Rex Ryan said. "He's
overcome a lot in his career. If anybody can do it, it's him. He's tough and he
OLYMPIC GLORY: Tonique Williams-Darling, Darling's sister-in-law, won the gold
medal in the 400 meters for the Bahamas. It's the first individual gold medal
ever for the country.
Dennis Darling, Darling's older brother, will compete today in the 4x400 meter
Darling's cousin, Frank Rutherford, won the bronze medal in the triple jump in
1992 for the Bahamian team.
"It's crazy," Darling said. "Not just for my family, but for the whole country."
Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.
OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens rookie running back B.J. Sams has been medically cleared and will return kicks Saturday night against the Detroit Lions.
And special-teams coordinator Gary Zauner is eager to watch Sams make his debut in a game for the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium after missing the majority of training camp with a broken thumb that required surgery.