OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens were running a two-minute drill in practice Saturday when a sure-handed receiver wearing No. 85 cut to his left, caught a pass, tapped both feet within the sideline and slipped out of bounds to stop the clock.
It was a move that Derrick Mason — good old No. 85 — did countless times in game situations. On this occasion, it was newcomer Lee Evans.
One day after being traded from Buffalo for a fourth-round draft pick, Lee Evans passed his physical and wasted no time making himself part of the Baltimore offense. He ran plays with the first team, caught several passes from Joe Flacco and finished the afternoon with a broad smile on his face.
“I was very excited to come here and be a part of something special,” said Evans, who experienced only one winning season since being selected in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Bills.
“Obviously, this has been a very historic franchise, a winning organization. I just want to come in and do my part, and do anything I can do to help them win.”
The 30-year-old Evans fills the hole created when the Ravens cut Mason last month in a salary-cap purge. Not only did he assume Mason’s role as Flacco’s second target behind Anquan Boldin, but he also took Mason’s number, the only one left in the 80s.
“It’ll probably change,” said Evans, who wore 83 in Buffalo. “It’s the only available one right now.”
Evans wouldn’t care if the Ravens gave him a number suited for a left tackle, because he loves the idea of playing for a team that has reached the playoffs in each of the past three seasons. To Evans, the Ravens represent a sense of normality compared to Buffalo, which went through a variety of quarterbacks and four head coaches during his seven-year tenure.
“It’s been a whirlwind in Buffalo,” he said. “To come into a stable situation, it builds confidence that I can continue to get better every day.”
Evans was surprisingly sharp during Saturday’s three-hour session, which began outside but moved inside after it began to thunder within the opening 60 minutes.
“He looked good out there today. He definitely has an extra gear to him,” Flacco said. “That’s going to be a big plus for us, to be able to kind of stretch the field vertically a little bit and challenge some teams. So, I’m excited about it. Yeah, he can run, and he can run routes well, too.”
Evans started all 16 games for the Bills in each of his first six seasons before an ankle injury cut his participation to 13 games last year. He finished with a career-low 37 catches and four touchdowns — three against the Ravens in a 37-34 overtime defeat.
“I remember the success he had against us. It’s a bad memory. We couldn’t cover him,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said.
Evans ranks third on Buffalo’s career list with 5,934 yards receiving, is fourth with 377 receptions and fifth with 43 touchdowns. His best season came in 2006, when he had 82 catches for 1,292 yards and eight touchdowns.
He’s still waiting to experience the thrill of being in the playoffs, which explains why he was so elated to come to Baltimore.
“I’ve been in the league for eight years now and haven’t been there yet,” he said. “So, coming to a franchise like this, I was excited about it, as fired up as I could be. I just want to do anything I can to do my part to help them get there.”
NOTES: OL Marshal Yanda (back spasms) and DT Terrence Cody (ankle) didn’t practice. TE Ed Dickson (hamstring) and CB Domonique Foxworth (knee) returned to practice. OT Ramon Harewood (knees) passed his physical and was cleared to practice.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)