OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh was guardedly optimistic about the status of three injured starters heading into Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.
Free safety Ed Reed has a strained groin and foot injury.
Wide receiver Mark Clayton has a tweaked right hamstring and a knee issue.
And offensive tackle Jared Gaither is dealing with lower back pain, a foot injury and a lingering neck problem.
All three players were sidelined during a 48-3 rout of the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
“I would say optimistic, not for sure,” Harbaugh said Monday at his weekly news conference. “Jared has got some lower back tightness. He can go, it’s just a matter of how effective he can be. Mark, probably as the week goes on, we’ll have to see how much he can move around on that thing.
“I know he’s a lot better today than he was last week. Ed, same thing. Ed’s going to have to get out there and practice and get a feel for it. It will be up to him. I’d put Ed and Mark, probably, in the same category that way.”
Meanwhile, Harbaugh indicated that running back Ray Rice’s chest injury isn’t considered to be serious.
Rice left the game early in the third quarter after rushing for a career-high 166 yards, but the game was in hand and it was a precautionary measure.
“We just felt like, at that time, it was a good time to get him out,” Harbaugh said. “We have good backs, so it worked out.”
BARNES CONTRIBUTES: Seldom-used outside linebacker Antwan Barnes provided a solid pass rush off the edge, notching his first sack of the season against the Lions.
He picked up the sack following an instant-replay challenge from Harbaugh, reversing the initial ruling that quarterback Daunte Culpepper was down by contact.
Barnes’ last sack came as a rookie on Dec. 16, 2007 in an overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Over the past two games, Barnes has been active and has been creating penetration in the backfield.
“Antwan has done a good job,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously earlier in the year, he wasn’t playing as well as we thought he could and he thought he could, and he’s corrected that.
“He had a chance last week to come back and play. He got his shot, and he did a nice job. He’s got to build on that, but he’s played well the last two games.”
BILLICK’S BACK: Former Ravens coach Brian Billick will work Sunday’s game against the Bears as FOX’s color analyst, marking the first time he has called a game involving his former team since being fired by owner Steve Bisciotti nearly two years ago.
Billick, who remains on the Ravens’ payroll through the 2010 season after being fired following the 2007 season, won a Super Bowl in Baltimore and had an 80-64 record.
Harbaugh is a frequent guest on Billick’s Coach Speak show on FOX and seems to get along well with him.
“I’m excited about it,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve had some great conversations. We have a great relationship with Brian. Brian has a great relationship with the Ravens, and I think it will be a fun part of the whole deal.”
QUICK HITS: Starting in place of Reed the past two games, former third-round pick Tom Zbikowski has intercepted two passes. “He’s a great example,” Harbaugh said of the former Notre Dame standout. “Here’s a second-year guy that has done great on special teams. He’s really been a force on special teams. He’s had a chance to play defense, and he’s kind of done it.” … The Ravens have been impressed with wide receiver Demetrius Williams, who caught two passes for 45 yards in a relief role. His 34-yard reception led to fullback Le’Ron McClain’s three-yard touchdown run. “We really need Demetrius to be a player,” Harbaugh said. “I think missing all of last year with the [Achilles’ tendon, ankle] injury, kind of going through training camp and getting healthy early in the season and fighting through that and kind of getting himself back, he has practiced really well for about five or six weeks. And it’s funny how that works. You practice really well for a few weeks, maybe the coaches get a little confidence in you, you get a little confidence in yourself and then you start making some plays. He’s a guy that can go up and make a play. We needed him to do that.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.