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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Now that Baltimore Ravens cornerback Corey Ivy has returned to practice after lacerating his kidney against the Denver Broncos last month, he has to overcome a conditioning hurdle to regain his role in the team’s nickel package.
Ivy remains questionable and is considered extremely unlikely to play in Sunday’s pivotal AFC North clash against the Cincinnati Bengals. That’s keeping in line with his time table of four to six weeks of recovery.
â€œThe key now for Corey, itâ€™s my understanding that all tests are positive, but right now he has to get back in shape,â€ Billick said. â€œThatâ€™s our biggest concern right now. Before we put him out on the field, we need to see what kind of football shape heâ€™s in.â€
Ivy hasn’t experienced any setbacks and has been quietly going about his routine on the practice field. Ivy has been replaced by Ronnie Prude and Evan Oglesby with Prude intercepting two passes and returning one for a touchdown.
"I’m just happy to be back out there," Ivy said. "Yes, I had a scare, but that’s behind me now. Now, it’s all about me getting ready to play and contribute to this team again."
Meanwhile, the Ravens added two starters to their injury report Thursday with tight end Todd Heap and return specialist B.J. Sams listed as questionable. Heap injured his thigh and was limited in team drills. Sams is nursing shoulder and thigh injuries and missed part of practice.
However, both veterans are expected by team officials to be available Sunday.
Wide receiver Clarence Moore (foot) is questionable along with rookie tight end Quinn Sypniewski (neck). Safety Dawan Landry (knee) is still listed as probable, as are safety Gerome Sapp (thigh) and linebacker/defensive end Adalius Thomas (neck).
DISAPPOINTED: Ravens pass rusher Terrell Suggs is mildly disappointed that he won’t be facing off against Bengals left tackle Levi Jones, his former Arizona State teammate. Jones is out after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, and rookie Andrew Whitworth has done a credible job in his place.
"I’m a little down about not having Levi out there because playing against him always makes me better," Suggs said. "Whitworth looks like he’s doing a solid job, so it’s not like it’s going to be easy just because Levi’s out."
LOOKING AHEAD: The Ravensâ€™ remaining opponents have a combined 27-36 record and a .429 winning percentage. Baltimore finishes the season against three 2-5 clubs: Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo.
Conversely, the Bengalsâ€™ remaining opponents are a combined 38-25 (.603), closing the season with challenging road games at Indianapolis (7-0) and Denver (5-2) before concluding against the Steelers on New Yearâ€™s Eve.
QUICK HITS: Billick said heâ€™s not concerned that Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, the former Ravens defensive coordinator will have special knowledge of the Ravensâ€™ offensive schemes. â€œI donâ€™t have a grasp of what weâ€™re trying to do offensively,â€ Billick joked. â€œI donâ€™t know how the hell he would have an idea what weâ€™re doing offensively. Itâ€™s been a long time. Heâ€™s having to take care of his team. Iâ€™m sure thatâ€™s what heâ€™s focused on.â€ â€¦ Last season, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer passed for 3,836 yards and 32 touchdowns for a 101.1 passer rating. However, Palmer suffered ligament tears in his left knee during a wild-card playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. This season, he has completed 63 percent of his throws, which is nearly five percent lower than last season. He has thrown for 11 touchdowns and 1,684 yards. â€œHard to say comparison-wise,â€ Billick said. â€œHe looks awful good. Heâ€™s throwing the ball well.â€ â€¦ In the process of dusting off the I-formation, the Ravens have increased the role of fullback Ovie Mughelli. He has overtaken Justin Green as the starter for two of the past three games. â€œOvie is playing very well,â€ Billick said. â€œWe are in an out of a lot of personnel groupings, and weâ€™ll probably tend to do that still. Justin Green is playing equally as well, but Ovie is going to be a big part of our ability to run the ball.â€ .. Following running back Jamal Lewis’ season-high 31 carries for 109 yards, the Ravens don’t appear to have any buyer’s remorse after investing a $5 million signing bonus as part of $6 million in 2006 compensation for the former Pro Bowl runner. "There’s always a great deal of discussion any time we make roster moves and talk about re-signing guys," Billick said. "But there was a great deal of confidence in the building about Jamal’s ability to come back and be the kind of back we need for him to be." … Besides Jones, the Bengals will be without center Rich Braham (knee) and wide receiver Kelley Washington (hamstring). Linebacker Brian Simmons (neck) is questionable. Former Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams (knee) is probable.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland