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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Because of injury concerns involving safety Ed Reed and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, backups Gerome Sapp and Jarret Johnson are in the Baltimore Ravens’ on-deck circle.
Both former Pro Bowl defenders are listed as questionable for Sunday’s kickoff against the San Diego Chargers, and Ravens coach Brian Billick indicated they would be game-time decisions.
Reed was held out of the final two practices of the week after injuring his foot. Sapp, who represents the lone backup safety on the depth chart, would take the place of the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
“They always might need me, and this week it looks like they probably will because obviously Ed hasn’t practiced a lot,” said Sapp, whom Baltimore acquired in a trade this summer from the Indianapolis Colts. “I’m the X-factor. It should be an interesting challenge, especially playing against a guy the caliber of Antonio Gates.”
Billick, though, didn’t seem especially concerned about Reed’s status.
“During the course of the week, you get some bumps and bruises,” Billick said. “We listed it appropriately.”
Suggs hasn’t practiced for the past three days after injuring his hamstring against the Cleveland Browns. Johnson has taken over for Suggs with Gary Stills and Dan Cody rotating behind him.
“This would be a prime time for Dan to get up,” Billick said of Cody, who has been inactive for the first three games.
Rookie defensive tackle Haloti Ngata remains questionable with a back injury. Four players were upgraded to probable, including: tight end Todd Heap (ankle/leg), offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo (elbow), linebacker Bart Scott (foot) and wide receiver Demetrius Williams (elbow).
CLASSY IN SAN DIEGO?: Unhappy this winter in Baltimore and granted permission to seek a trade, Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis made inquiries at the Pro Bowl in February to a few Chargers players about coming to San Diego. It never went beyond those conversations, though, because of a lack of interest from Chargers general manager A.J. Smith.
Lewis, who’s back in the Ravens’ good graces with a team-high 31 tackles along with an interception and a sack, basically acknowledged what happened.
“I love where I’m at now, there were lot of things that were expressed back then,” Lewis said. “Whatever happened, happened. If it was meant to be, it would have been meant to be, but I guess it wasn’t."
Lewis is expected to perform his trademark "Squirrel" dance Sunday after a one-year hiatus.
ROYAL TREATMENT: Although kicker Matt Stover is arguably the team’s most valuable offensive player after connecting on 29 consecutive field goals, that doesn’t always guarantee him V.I.P. treatment in the locker room. After all, he’s a kicker.
“Whether he’s the oldest or youngest, doesn’t matter, a kicker gets teased about everything,” tight end Todd Heap. “That’s a given. You want to be kicker when you’re older? Expect that.”
MATCHUP TO PONDER: Return specialist B.J. Sams is averaging 10.2 yards per punt return. The Chargers have the best coverage team in the NFL, allowing one yard on three punt returns.
QUICK HITS: Like Ravens defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, Chargers Pro Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal has an impressive wrestling background. Neal was an All-American wrestler at Fresno State and once defeated a sumo wrestler in an exhibition match during the Japan Bowl. “He’s a tough guy,” Gregg said. “Maybe we’ll lock up on Sunday.” … The Chargers are dealing with turmoil after starting safety Terrence Kiel was arrested for allegedly transporting codeine-based prescription cough medicine to his native Texas. He will not play Sunday and didn’t make the trip Friday as he’ll be arraigned next week. Kiel was replaced by Clinton Hart. “It’s a bad situation,” Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason said. “I know that once Sunday comes they will put that behind them. Somebody else will fill that space.” … Don’t expect the Ravens to overlook underrated Chargers middle linebacker Donnie Edwards, who lacks ideal size at 6-foot-2, 227 pounds but leads San Diego in tackles and had 154 last season to finish fourth in the league. “Whenever you’ve got undersized guys, they want to make a point every game that they may be undersized, but the way they bring it is not undersized at all,” offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo said.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.