Washington hopeful he’ll play, Rice returns to practice
OWINGS MILLS — Baltimore Ravens backup cornerback Frank Walker admitted that he spit in the face of Pittsburgh Steelers punter Mitch Berger, but characterized the disputed inc ident of expectoration as unintentional.
"It was just a slobber moment," Walker said. "Yeah, say it, don’t spray it."
In the final minute of the Ravens’ 13-9 loss to the Steelers, Walker was involved in an altercation with Berger after the punter confronted Walker for allegedly going after kicker Jeff Reed’s knee following an extra point.
"After the kick, he felt like I tried to take his kicker’s knee out and I was just trying to block his kick," Walker said.
Berger and Reed aren’t buying Walker’s explanation, though.
"I had my mouth open and was about to say something when he spit right on me," Berger told Pittsburgh reporters. "It wasn’t something that happens by accident when you’re talking sometimes. There was the full noise. He made the full spitting noise.
"I was trying to tell the ref the guy spit on me. Look at my facemask. It was shocking. I was surprised. We came face to face when I was reacting to come between him and Jeff. I have no reason to make something like that up. He knows it happened."
Added Reed: "I just couldn’t believe he did what he did. It was disgusting, just classless."
NFL spokesman Corry Rush said in an e-mail that there was no visual evidence of the exchange.
Meanwhile, Berger remains disgusted by the episode.
"I think I kept spitting for 24 hours," Berger said. "I kept brushing my teeth. To have another man spit in your mouth like that, it was gross."
Walker spoke with Steelers safety Ryan Clark, a friend, and told him that he didn’t mean to spit in Berger’s face.
"That’s almost worst than slapping somebody, isn’t it?" Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith said. "It’s like the ultimate insult. Dirty stuff, cheap stuff, you don’t need to do that."
Walker was adamant, though, that it doesn’t bother him that the Steelers think he meant to spit on Berger.
"I don’t care," said Walker, who added that he was fined $5,000 for an illegally tinted visor. "I hate Pittsburgh."
TRAINING ROOM: Starting cornerback Fabian Washington didn’t practice due to a sore hamstring, but is guardedly optimistic that he might play Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys.
Even if Washington does play, it’s unclear whether his leg will hold up for four quarters. The Ravens are expected to have cornerback Evan Oglesby active this week.
"I think so, but we’ll see," Washington said. "Right now, it’s been improving day to day. I wish we played on Sunday to get that extra day. By Saturday, I think my chances are very high I am going to play."
Washington has been playing well, but has struggled with injuries all season.
"It sucks because I was starting to play where I’m getting comfortable and just flying around playing football and then you get a hamstring injury," Washington said. "For a guy like me, I need my legs out there almost at full strength to perform like I want to perform. So, that was definitely a setback."
Rookie running back Ray Rice returned to practice on a limited basis after missing the Steelers game with a contusion of his lower leg.
"It might be a game-time decision," Rice said. "It feels a lot better. Last week I was in a lot of pain. It’s a soft-tissue bruise with swelling right on the calf and right by the shin.
"It was all balled up and the swelling has gotten much better. I want to play. I want to be out there to help my guys out."
Offensive tackle Jared Gaither (flu) didn’t practice as well as free safety Ed Reed (hamstring).
Gaither has been dealing with a painful separated right shoulder and spoke in a whisper because of his illness. He said he’s definitely going to play.
“I think he’s had a courageous season, and the shoulder is getting better as he goes now, so he’s bringing the other arm in to it more than he has,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s done a great job in rehab.”
Added Gaither: "My arm is better. When I couldn’t really use my arm, I relied on faith, heart and my other teammates to help me through it. I don’t think it was an obstacle, I think it will eventually help me out."
Offensive tackle Willie Anderson (ankle), wide receiver Derrick Mason (dislocated left shoulder), cornerback Samari Rolle (hamstring) and kicker Matt Stover (sprained right ankle) were limited.
Linebackers Terrell Suggs (thigh) and Jarret Johnson (calf) participated fully.
The Ravens ruled out wide receiver Marcus Maxwell (hip).
SNUBBED: Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata doesn’t seem upset that he wasn’t selected to the AFC Pro Bowl squad despite recording 70 tackles and two interceptions.
"I don’t feel snubbed," Ngata said. "It’s just the way it is. It’s cool that my teammates see what I do and think it’s important what I do for them. Hopefully, next year I can make it more clear so that I can be one of those guys."
Ngata was named an alternate and could make it to the game if Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth bows out due to injury. Punter Sam Koch and center Jason Brown were the other notable players overlooked in the balloting.
"Pretty confident that Haloti will be out there playing," Harbaugh said. "We think he’s the best defensive lineman in football."
NO T.O. TALK: Harbaugh was on the Philadelphia Eagles’ staff when controversial Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens was feuding with quarterback Donovan McNabb and coach Andy Reid.
Not surprisingly, he declined to elaborate on any past histrionics and confined his comments to praising Owens’ play.
"Not that I could share right now, no," Harbaugh said. "It would be all positive, I guarantee it."
ROSTER MOVE: The Ravens re-signed offensive guard Tre’ Stallings to the practice squad, releasing center Marvin Philip from the practice squad.
QUICK HITS: Cowboys running back Marion Barber (toe) didn’t practice as well as safety Ken Hamlin (finger). Cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones (neck) was limited, but is going to play. Quarterback Tony Romo was limited and revealed that his back injury might be worse than the team is letting on. When asked why he didn’t attend Owens’ birthday party, Romo replied: "Because I couldn’t walk. It would have been very difficult for me to stay in one position for any extended period of time. So, I was pretty laid up for the last couple of days." … Middle linebacker Ray Lewis didn’t sound overly impressed with Romo, a Pro Bowl selection who has passed for 3,013 yards, 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 98.3 quarterback rating. "Tony Romo, he’s an up-and-down quarterback," Lewis said. "Sometimes, he can get blazing hot. He can make the same throws off back foots and the same throws sideways. Sometimes, he makes those same throws and they’re huge mistakes. People that have had success against him have really made him not sit back there comfortable." … The Ravens opted to practice Tuesday, which is normally players’ day off, to get a head start on the condense week of preparation. "We felt like we needed to stay on schedule because you have a basic routine," Harbaugh said. "We tempoed it way back down." … Cowboys coach Wade Phillips downplayed the reported soap opera that goes on at Valley Ranch, the Cowboys’ training facility, blaming the media for blowing the combustible situation out of proportion. "Somebody has," Phillips said. "They said it was going to bother us. I don’t think it bothered us at all. I thought we played well."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.