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OWINGS MILLS — Clarence Moore is virtually always open, at least in the sense that even if covered tightly he can usually elevate into an unoccupied area. In what served as reminder of his tall presence to the Baltimore Ravens’ coaching staff and quarterbacks, Moore’s athletic display of leaping catches was one of the few isolated positives to be gleaned from a sloppy 30-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
After missing nearly an entire camp and the first two preseason games while he recuperated from a pair of offseason surgeries to repair a preexisting sports hernia, Moore caught two passes for 60 yards from Kyle Boller at the Metrodome to set up the quarterback’s touchdown scramble.
“More than the plays I made, I was happy to get back out there,” Moore said. “I was happy to take a hit. It’s been 10 or 11 months since I’ve played, so I was happy to be back out on the field, period."
Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 220 pounds is one major advantage for the former Northern Arizona triple jumper who lost his starting job a year ago when he struggled with his hands. Moore’s hands and toughness have been questioned over the years, but not his occasional flair for the dramatic.
First, Moore nabbed a 44-yard lob from Boller up the sidelines in the third quarter over Vikings cornerback Cedric Griffin. On the same drive, he delivered a highlight reel worthy, one-handed catch where he extended high enough to dunk a basketball for a leaping 16-yard catch over Minnesota cornerback Dovonte Edwards down to the Vikings’ 2-yard line.
Moore is six inches and 38 pounds heavier than the 6-foot, 182-pound Edwards.
“He threw it up, and I went up and grabbed it,” said Moore, whose acrobatic reception was followed two plays later by Boller’s touchdown run.
Moore only played in four games last season, catching just three passes for 59 yards and no touchdowns. As a rookie in 2004, the former sixth-round draft pick played in 15 games and started six to finish with 24 catches, 293 yards and four touchdowns. Now, he has designs on emerging again as a red-zone threat and as the Ravens’ third wide receiver.
His chief competitors are impressive rookie Demetrius Williams and former third-round draft pick Devard Darling, and Moore has ground to make up.
Darling has caught seven passes for a team-high 134 yards, but lost a fumble against the Vikings. Williams has five catches for 70 yards, catching two passes for 27 yards against Minnesota.
“I really see us competing against each other and making each other better,” Moore said. “We’re going to continue to battle it out everyday, and it’s going to make us all better.”
Regardless of where he winds up on the depth chart, it appears that Moore has completed his medical comeback. During the offseason, Moore underwent a painful clean-up procedure to repair loose tissue and reapply loose mesh wire intended to stabilize his abdomen. He has undergone five hernia surgeries dating back to college.
“I was just motivated to get back out on the field,” Moore said. “Even if I was healthy, I would be in that competitive position. I was just hungry to get back on the field. It’s been tough.”
NOTES: The Ravens return to practice today at their training complex. … The team has until Tuesday afternoon to release nine players to get down to a league-mandated roster limit of 75 players. NFL teams have until Sept. 2 to cut their roster to 53 players and may form an eight-man practice squad thereafter. … German offensive tackle Samuel Gutekunst is already assured of a practice-squad slot under an NFL international development program. He doesn’t count against the team’s current roster count of 84 players.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.