Randy Hymes certainly does not have the resume of some of the other Baltimore Ravens wide receivers. He wasn't drafted. He didn't go to a big-time football school. He didn't even play wide receiver during his final two years of college.
So far this season, Hymes -- who missed all of last year with a knee injury -- has been the Ravens' most productive wide receiver. He will start in place of the injured Travis Taylor for the third consecutive game on Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs. With Taylor and Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap -- the Ravens' leading wide receiver in 2002 and '03 -- out with injuries, Hymes's production has been something of a pleasant surprise.
"We have always had high expectations for Randy," Coach Brian Billick said.
"It is great to see it come to fruition. Obviously, it's a little behind schedule because we expected that last year, but then [he had] the injury. . . . We're excited it's showing up for Randy. It's still a work in progress, but obviously he's being productive for us."
Hymes, who entered the season with six career receptions, is tied with Heap for the team lead in receptions with 12, and he leads the Ravens with 124 receiving yards. The Ravens' four other wide receivers -- Taylor, Kevin Johnson, Devard Darling and Clarence Moore -- have a combined 11 catches for 91 yards.
In the Ravens' 23-9 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday, Hymes had four catches for 61 yards. He made a one-handed grab of a pass that was thrown behind him that resulted in an eight-yard gain and a first down. Late in the first half, Hymes turned a short 13-yard pass into a 38-yard touchdown, cutting across the field from right to left. It was Baltimore's first (and so far only) touchdown catch of the season.
"He's such a big target, and he's got big hands. You throw him the ball anywhere, he's going to catch it," quarterback Kyle Boller said. "A quarterback loves a receiver that can make a play after the catch, and Randy showed me that last week. I think he's going to get better every week."
Hymes signed with the Ravens as a rookie free agent in 2002. He had played quarterback during his final two seasons at Grambling, but the Ravens wanted him to move to wide receiver -- a position he had not really played since his sophomore year. The switch didn't surprise him; after all, he has good size (he's 6 foot 3 and 211 pounds) and is an excellent athlete (he played basketball and was a long jumper at Grambling).
Switching back to wide receiver wasn't that difficult, Hymes said.
What helped him the most was the time he spent on the practice squad during his rookie season, because he had to face the Ravens' first-string defense -- and defensive backs like Chris McAlister, Gary Baxter and Ed Reed -- every day.
"Those guys got me to where I'm at right now," Hymes said.
"He's one of those guys, I do remember him being here his rookie year. He came in with such raw talent that it was only a matter of time that, if he stayed dedicated to his craft, he'd become a good receiver," McAlister said.
"Going against him every day, he was a lot different -- he was a little more unorthodox than most receivers. He ran his routes based on pure athleticism, without any knowledge of how to take on, how not to lean to show what you're doing. Over time, he's matured into a more steady, more deceiving route runner."
Hymes was signed off of the practice squad midway through his rookie season. He played in seven games, and made a big impression with a one-handed catch and run for 33 yards in the regular season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He continued his strong play into the 2003 preseason, with seven catches for 115 yards and one touchdown. But then he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in the final preseason game and missed the entire season.
"It hurt me so much to have to sit out for a whole year, just to be out there with the guys, to help them," Hymes said. "I thought that if I was healthy, I could've helped the team in some kind of fashion. That was the motivation that got me back. Just wanting to get on the field, man."
Hymes knows that he's gotten more opportunities since Taylor has been injured. It's going to be hard to keep Hymes off the field after his recent performances, but he says that he's ready to take any role with the Ravens.
"I'm in this position because Travis Taylor's injured; I didn't take nobody's spot," Hymes said. "I'm just doing my job, going out there making plays for the team, stepping up . . . When he's healthy, like I said, I didn't take his job. The job is his. I'm going to go back on the field, whenever my name is called again, go back and play again."
Ravens Notes: Federal prosecutors and the lawyers for Jamal Lewis are engaged in plea negotiations that could resolve a drug indictment against the running back, according to a report in Friday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Prosecutors have offered a deal in which Lewis would receive a sentence of shorter than one year in prison, according to the newspaper, which cited unnamed lawyers familiar with the negotiations.
Lewis, the Ravens' leading rusher, has been charged with conspiring to possess, with the intent to distribute, five kilograms of cocaine and using a cell phone in the commission of that act, and with attempting to possess cocaine. His trial is scheduled to begin on Nov. 1, the day after the Ravens play the Philadelphia Eagles.
A phone message left at the office of Lewis's Atlanta-based attorneys, Ed Garland and Don Samuel, was not returned on Friday afternoon. If Lewis agrees to a plea bargain and thus admits guilt, he could be subject to a fine and/or suspension from NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
"Jamal was here practicing today and we anticipate him playing on Monday," team spokesman Kevin Byrne said. "What his lawyers do regarding his Nov. 1 trial date is up to them." . . .
Tackle Ethan Brooks (knee) and fullback Ovie Mughelli (hamstring) have been upgraded from doubtful to questionable. Nose tackle Kelly Gregg (knee) and nickel back Deion Sanders (hamstring) both participated in all portions of team practice on Friday, increasing the likelihood that they will play on Monday.
The oddest entry on the injury report is for Kansas City Chiefs kick returner Dante Hall, who's listed as probable with an injury to his lip.
Hall received seven stitches in his lower lip after being injured in the Chiefs' 24-21 loss to Houston last week, and the lip became infected. He had the stitches removed and returned to practice Friday.