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OWINGS MILLS — One of Mike Andersonâ€™s defining qualities is his patience, and the Baltimore Ravensâ€™ veteran reserve running back is about to be rewarded for being as good as his reputation.
Despite not having a carry in two of the past three games and just 29 for the season, the former Denver Broncos star’s next complaint would be his first.
Now, Anderson is in line for perhaps his most playing time in quite a while because backup running back Musa Smith is out for Sundayâ€™s game against the Kansas City Chiefs with a neck injury.
â€œYou never know when theyâ€™re going to need you, so you always have to be ready,â€ said Anderson, whom Baltimore signed to a four-year, $8 million contract in March that included a $2 million signing bonus. â€œThe key to it is being extremely disciplined and paying attention to detail.
â€œThis is not a forgiving league if youâ€™re not ready when your number is called for an opportunity and you donâ€™t perform. If that happens, you might as well buy a ticket out of town.â€
One season removed from a 1,012-yard campaign where he scored 13 touchdowns, Anderson is on pace for the smallest workload of his seven-year career. The 2000 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has gained 127 yards and rushed for one touchdown to rank third on the team in rushing behind starter Jamal Lewis (796 yards) and Smith (153 yards).
With Smith out of the equation, Anderson will act as Lewisâ€™ primary backup and as the third-down back.
â€œThatâ€™s what Mike is here for,â€ Ravens coach Brian Billick said. â€œThe depth of the running backs, we said all along, would be a key for us. We knew it would show up, and it has.â€
If anything, Anderson is well-rested. He hasnâ€™t taken the pounding that he used to as the Broncosâ€™ workhorse.
â€œI feel extremely fresh,â€ Anderson said. â€œI donâ€™t regret anything about coming here. The way I look at it, Iâ€™m part of a 9-3 team. Thatâ€™s a blessing. At some point down the line here, my number might be called and I want to be ready."
TRAINING ROOM: Smith is out as a precautionary measure, but Billick said that the injury carries some of the same symptoms from his neck injury suffered against the Tennessee Titans where he was carted off the field.
"They’re making sure they cover all the bases on him to be sure we have him fully examined," Billick said. "We’re optimistic. We have to wait to see what the doctors say. They’re making sure it’s nothing more potentially serious."
Offensive guard Keydrick Vincent (groin) reiterated Friday that he expected to start, and was upgraded to probable. Rookie Chris Chester had started the previous three games at right guard in place of Vincent. Vincent has worked with the first offense all week.
â€œIâ€™m a little bit rusty on some things, but everything is coming back to me,â€ Vincent said. â€œIâ€™m back.â€
Backup outside linebacker Dan Cody (partially torn posterior cruciate ligament) was downgraded to out. Tight end Daniel Wilcox(hamstring, questionable) was limited Friday and his status will be a game-time decision. Rookie tight end Quinn Sypniewski has been filling in. Backup linebacker Dennis Haley (ankle) returned to practice and was upgraded to probable. Cornerback Ronnie Prude (illness, probable) returned to practice and is expected to play.
â€œ"We’re passing it around pretty good now, myself included," joked a hoarse-voiced Billick. "We’ve got more drugs in me than the entire Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco."
RETURN GAME UPDATE: In the wake of return specialist B.J. Samsâ€™ season-ending fractured ankle, running back Cory Ross is expected to return kickoffs as well as punts, according to wide receiver Mark Clayton. Clayton said Friday that he will fill in behind Ross on punt returns. The team is apparently wary of using Clayton, a starter, as the primary punt returner.
â€œIâ€™ll fill in behind Cory, but heâ€™ll start out catching all the punts and kickoffs,â€ Clayton said. â€œHeâ€™ll do both. Iâ€™m just the backup.â€
QUICK HIT: Defensive end Trevor Pryce has extended his leisure activities from dribbling a soccer ball at the teamâ€™s training complex to an impromptu game of dodge ball. Pryce, nose guard Kelly Gregg, Vincent, linebacker Bart Scott and several others took turns playing dodge ball Friday in the locker room.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.