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OWINGS MILLS — Doomsday scenarios aside, coach Brian Billick remains confident in the Baltimore Ravens’ depth at running back. Barring a season-ending injury to starter Jamal Lewis, the Ravens are optimistic that their running game will hold up for the stretch run.
“The depth of the running back corps, we said was going to be important for us,” Billick said. “It would have to be catastrophic for us to run out of running backs going into January, and that’s a good thing. Our depth at running back right now is a luxury that I’m not sure a lot of teams have.”
Baltimore (10-3) is likely to get Musa Smith, Lewis’ primary backup and the team’s second-leading rusher, back for a Dec. 24 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s forecast to miss his second consecutive game with a neck injury Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
“We could get Musa back by next week and that would be great,” Billick said.
Although Lewis has run hard and been more productive since Billick fired offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and installed himself as the play-caller, the running game remains 27th in the league and averages only 98.5 yards per contest.
“I think we’re starting to get things cranked up,” Lewis said after rushing for 81 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries Sunday in a 20-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
“We’re running downhill, and the defense is feeling what we’re all about in the fourth quarter.”
PRAISE FOR ROSS: Even though rookie running back Cory Ross fumbled a punt before pouncing on the loose football at the Ravens’ 12 in his NFL debut and finished with three punt returns for minus-2 yards while averaging 25.5 yards per kickoff return, he got a vote of confidence from the coaching staff.
“I think he did very well,” Billick said of the replacement for B.J. Sams following his season-ending fractured ankle. “It was very windy. For a first-time punt returner, that’s kind of a daunting task. For the first time out, he did very, very well.”
Ross gets high marks for bravery, but his judgment appeared to be in question when he didn’t signal for a fair catch and was twice hammered as soon as he caught the ball.
“I definitely took some chances,” Ross said. “I just wanted to feel and catch the ball.”
TRAINING ROOM: The Ravens reported no significant injuries as ailments suffered by receiver Derrick Mason (thigh) and offensive tackle Adam Terry (back) aren’t deemed to be serious.
Billick doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that he had two players suffer season-ending injuries during a Thursday night loss to the Cincinnati Bengals four days after a game, and that there were no major injuries when the team had 10 days prior to the Kansas City game.
“Absolutely, absolutely, I won’t blame it on that, it may not be quantified, but absolutely, I will say it before and I will say it again, this league needs to take a serious look at putting teams on a short week on a consistent basis in the months of November and December,” Billick said. “That’s a safety issue.”
Meanwhile, Billick said he didn’t know if Sams will require surgery, stating he would have to check with trainer Bill Tessendorf.
QUICK HITS: Billick didn’t have much of a reaction to becoming the all-time winningest Baltimore coach in NFL history following his 72nd regular-season win where he surpassed former Baltimore Colts coach Don Shula.
“Do I get anything for that? A dinner at Morton’s,” Billick said. “Just to have stuck around long enough to run up enough wins, they’ve had some great coaches here. My name and Don Shula’s in the same sentence usually has multiple other contexts.” … Billick thought that safety Ed Reed shouldn’t have been ruled down by contact following his second interception Sunday. “I thought he never touched the ground,” Billick said. “I thought he was on top of the man, I don’t think his knee ever hit. That’s not reviewable because they had blown the ball dead.” … In response to a question about his decision to stay under a change-or-go mandate from owner Steve Bisciotti following last season, Billick quipped: “I’m supremely confident I will remain the coach of the Baltimore Ravens this week. Outside of that, I’ll wait until after the season to find out what happens next.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson


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