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OWINGS MILLS — Besides his grinding approach and physical ability, there are at least five reasons why Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson is only a dozen yards behind LaDainian Tomlinson on the NFL rushing chart.
Offensive tackle Jordan Black, two-time Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters, blue-chip center Casey Wiegmann, 11-time Pro Bowl guard and potential future Hall of Fame selection Will Shields and wild-man former All-Pro offensive tackle Kyle Turley have paved the way for Johnson rushing for 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Baltimore Ravens (9-3) are well aware that dealing with the Chiefs’ experienced blockers is one of the most challenging aspects of their game Sunday against Kansas City (7-5) at Arrowhead Stadium.
â€œThis is one of the top offensive lines, so youâ€™ve got to give them a lot of credit,â€ nose guard Kelly Gregg said. â€œThat offensive line sets the tone, and they make the running game go. Theyâ€™ve been together for a while and they feed off of each other.
â€œTheyâ€™re a tough team with a great running back. Itâ€™s a different challenge for us, and we need to hold that line or it could be a long day for us.â€
The Ravens have only allowed 909 rushing yards and one 100-yard rusher (Tennessee Titansâ€™ Travis Henry) this season. Johnson leads the NFL with four games with 150 or more rushing yards and has gained 100 yards in six of the past seven games.
â€œThose three guys [Shields, Wiegmann and Waters] have played together for a long time and they are Pro Bowl caliber players,â€ Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said. â€œThatâ€™s the ingredients you have when you have a great offensive line. You always build it in the middle.â€
TRAINING ROOM: The Ravens made only one change to their injury report, adding cornerback Ronnie Prude as probable with an illness.
Offensive guard Keydrick Vincent (groin, questionable) reiterated that he expects to be available Sunday. Rookie Chris Chester has started in Vincentâ€™s place for the past three games.
â€œIâ€™m 100 percent back,â€ Vincent said. â€œI want to be 130 percent."
Tight end Daniel Wilcox (hamstring) is also expected to return. Running back Musa Smith (neck) is doubtful for Sunday and has been limited in practice.
The Chiefs upgraded linebacker Derrick Johnson (ankle) and defensive tackle James Reed (groin) to probable, adding linebacker Keyaron Fox as probable.
QUICK HITS: Ravens coach Brian Billick expressed optimism in rookie return specialist Cory Rossâ€™ ability to handle kickoff returns in place of injured return specialist B.J. Sams (fractured ankle, injured reserve). â€œCory had a very good day,â€ Billick said. â€œWeâ€™ve got a lot of confidence in Cory. Thatâ€™s why we kept him on the active roster.â€ Wide receiver Mark Clayton will be the primary punt returner with Ross, nickel back Corey Ivy and safety Ed Reed also catching punts this week in practice. â€¦ The Ravens are preparing for anticipated gusty, cold conditions in Kansas City by practicing outside this week. â€œCold and windy, weâ€™ve got it covered the past few days,â€ Billick said. â€¦ Baltimore, which is 0-3 all-time against Kansas City included a 27-24 loss in 2004 when former Ravens running back Priest Holmes racked up 125 rushing yards and Kyle Boller was sacked four times, is the only current NFL team that hasnâ€™t played at Arrowhead Stadium.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland