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OWINGS MILLS — Mired in an unproductive start since taking over for injured return specialist B.J. Sams, Baltimore Ravens rookie Cory Ross remains hopeful of hurdling his personal learning curve.
The diminutive running back is averaging 2.4 yards on 10 punt returns with three fair catches and a long return of nine yards. Conversely, he appears much more comfortable on kickoffs with a 22.1 average on seven returns.
â€œIt takes a few games to get comfortable and weâ€™ll be fine,â€ said Ross, a 5-foot-6, 201-pound rookie from Nebraska. â€œIâ€™m not worried about it. The key thing everybody is saying to me is, â€˜Be patient,â€™ and to look at the stuff I do wrong.
â€œIn terms of hitting the seams, itâ€™s going to get much better. Iâ€™m getting more comfortable with the guys and theyâ€™re getting more comfortable with me. Right now, Iâ€™m much more comfortable on kickoffs and Iâ€™m working to get my reaction and timing back on punts.â€
Sams was averaging 10.6 yards per punt return with a long of 65 yards and 25.7 yards per kickoff with a long of 72 yards when he suffered a season-ending fractured ankle in a 13-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Ravens coach Brian Billick expressed confidence in Ross following Thursdayâ€™s practice.
â€œI think Cory is doing really well,â€ Billick said. â€œI think we need to do a better job of isolating what Cory does well. Heâ€™s different than B.J., and the more we get into that rhythm and get a feel for what Cory can do, the more we can help him crank more out of those returns.â€
Meanwhile, Sams hopes to be running again in four to five months after having a rod and a couple of screws inserted into his leg to repair the break. He underwent surgery one day after getting hurt in Cincinnati.
â€œItâ€™s coming along pretty good, Iâ€™m coming in every day for rehab.â€ Sams said while crutching around the locker room. â€œThey donâ€™t want me to put too much pressure on it since they have to go in and take the screws out.
TRAINING ROOM: Offensive guard Keydrick Vincent (groin) was added to the injury report Thursday as questionable, but is still expected to start. This is the second time this season that he’s had problems with the groin, missing three games earlier this season. If he can’t go, rookie Chris Chester will replace him. Offensive guard Jason Brown (ankle) and linebacker Bart Scott (ankle) was upgraded to probable.
The Bills ruled out fullback Daimon Shelton due to lingering effects of a concussion, and added rookie safety Donte Whitner (big toe) as probable with an injury.
FAST SUCCESS: It would be hard to choose between which rookie defender has been more valuable and deserving of recognition between safety Dawan Landry and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
Landry is tied for the team lead with five interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, while registering 82 tackles, three sacks and 12 pass deflections.
Ngata, a 6-foot-4, 340-pound first-round draft pick from Oregon, has kept blockers off of linebackers Ray Lewis, Bart Scott and Adalius Thomas, while posting 48 tackles, one sack and an interception.
â€œThe consistency that theyâ€™ve both shown is obviously a huge part of what weâ€™re doing,â€ Billick said. â€œThey could both make a great case, but Iâ€™ll let you choose between the two.â€
SEEING RED: Rookie wide receiver Demetrius Williams wore special color contacts lens to enhance his eyesight for the first time during Sundayâ€™s 31-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although he doesnâ€™t normally wear contacts, he liked them so much he left in his red-hued lenses during postgame interviews after catching a 25-yard touchdown pass.
â€œThey make the ball show up a little bit better because it acts like a visor,â€ Williams said. â€œEven the grass is a lot greener.â€
QUICK HITS: The Ravens arenâ€™t inclined toward beginning playoff preparations for an undetermined opponent. â€œThe question is: who?,â€ Billick said. â€œWe went through that scenario the other day and it would take a month to get enough work on everybody that could show up for us.â€ â€¦ Defensive end Trevor Pryce noted the similarities between Ravens backup quarterback Kyle Boller and Bills starter J.P. Losman. â€œPhysically, in particular, we noticed that coming out,â€ Billick said. â€œI think there are some comparisons there. Kyle has given us a heck of a look.â€ â€¦ Steve McNair has only been sacked 17 times, but he hasnâ€™t decided what gift to give his offensive line, which is an NFL tradition. â€œI donâ€™t know, Iâ€™ll have to see,â€ he said with a laugh. â€œThe season isnâ€™t over yet.â€
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland