OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata predicted he’ll play Sunday against the New England Patriots despite a mild sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. He was limited in practice Thursday after being held out the previous day.
"I just tweaked it a little bit, my MCL," Ngata said. "It’s just a mild one. I’ll play Sunday."
Ngata suffered the injury while running a pass route on fourth-and-goal against the Denver Broncos. Ngata said he dealt with a similar injury last season.
"It’s just real stiff in the mornings, soreness a little bit," Ngata said. “It’s slowly getting less and less sore."
In the future, Ngata said he won’t hesitate to play offense after hurting his knee when he ran into safety Darcel McBath.
“If that’s what they want me to do, I’ll definitely run out there,” Ngata said.
Ngata carried around a brace with him in the locker room, but said he won’t necessarily need to wear it on Sunday.
“We’re just being careful,” he said. “You want to be safety with it.”
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has utilized Ngata as a goal-line fullback and tight end. The Ravens have drawn some criticism for exposing one of their top defensive players to potential risk of injury on offense.
“It’s always something you weigh,” Cameron said. “Haloti kind of is the one who wants to be in there, so we’ll let him dictate that a little bit. We’ve been awfully good with him in there.
“It was unfortunate what happened the other day. Thank goodness he’s going to be fine. Playing guys both ways here, there’s a little bit of tradition in that.”
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said he doesn’t have an issue with Ngata playing on offense.
“Let’s put the best players out on the field at any given time to help us win,” Mattison said. “That’s why every decision is made. We’re lucky he’s fine. He could have done that running over to me after a series, too. He looks great. Every time I see him, I get a big smile on my face.”
INJURY UPDATES: Besides Ngata, several other players returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday. That includes running back Ray Rice (bruised knee), fullback Le’Ron McClain (shoulder, knee), cornerback Josh Wilson (strained hamstring) and defensive end Paul Kruger (sprained left medial collateral ligament).Wilson downplayed the severity of his injury.
"I’ll be ready," Wilson said. "I would definitely be surprised if I couldn’t play. You just don’t want it to be a long-term injury. It’s not terrible."
Kruger is not expected to play this week, but it’s a good sign of progress that he was able to take part in practice for the first time since injuring his knee against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Inside linebacker Jameel McClain (knee) and outside linebacker Edgar Jones (bruised thigh) were limited again. The Ravens added safety Ken Hamlin (ankle) to the injury report as limited. Linebacker Prescott Burgess, who has a history of migraines, wasn’t seen during the part of practice open to reporters. He’s not listed on the injury report.
Patriots running back Fred Taylor (toe) was sideline for the second day in a row. Safety James Sanders (hamstring) was added to the injury report as limited. Quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder) and cornerback Terrence Wheatley (foot) participated fully.
AYANBADEJO ITCHING TO RETURN: Special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo expects to return to practice next week when he’s eligible to be activated from the physically unable to perform list. The first game he could play in is next week against the Buffalo Bills.
"Oh, I’m definitely ready to practice," Ayanbadejo said. "I know I’m ready to practice, we’ll just see how I stack up. Three days of practice and sprinkle my way back in there, and hopefully I’ll be ready for Buffalo. I’m shooting for Buffalo, but it starts with practice first."
Ayanbadejo tore his quadriceps tendon last October against the Patriots. He said he’s still experiencing some pain, but is managing it well.
"I mean, the only time I really feel good is when I’m out running around and lifting weights and doing that stuff," Ayanbadejo said. "When I’m at home, just sitting on the couch, it tends to ache, but that’s the same for any player. Once you’re lubricated up and warmed up, and got a nice sweat going, you feel good. Even if you’re 100 percent healthy, you sit at home and you’re feeling achy."
Ayanbadejo is expecting to see work on special-teams and defense when he returns, but isn’t entirely certain how he’ll be utilized.
"Are they going to throw in there and have me playing on all phases of special teams?" Ayanbadejo said. "Am I going to sprinkle in on defense? For me, I want to sprinkle in a little defense and sprinkle in a little special teams to break myself in. That’s what I want to do, and then let my role establish itself.
"If I start excelling on defense, then [I’d like to] pick up my role where I left off on defense, and maybe tune things down a little bit on special teams. If that’s not the case, then go back to a full-time special teams player. So, whatever I can do to make the team better, as long as it doesn’t adversely affect the team or my knee, I’m all for it."
PEES PROVIDING INTELLIGENCE: As the Patriots’ defensive coordinator until joining the Ravens’ staff this offseason, Dean Pees got to know the inner works of the New England schemes and personnel as well as anyone shy of Bill Belichick.
Now, the Ravens’ linebackers coach is providing intelligence and tips to his new team.
"Obviously I’ve practiced against Brady a lot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what they’re going to do in the game," Pees said. "I’ve seen it all, over practice, over six years. You know, I’ve seen every formation, everything that they do, and they keep changing it all the time.
"So, it’s going to be game-plan specific for what we are. All I can do is I think I can help a little more on personnel and what guys can do, and maybe what the shortcomings are, or what they’re not, hopefully. But I don’t think that’s any more than what we do every week. So, I think it’s pretty much a normal week.”
Pees downplayed the impact of what kind of information he can provide.
“There’s probably somebody on every staff that has been on somebody else’s staff,” he said. “And sometimes, I think that can be overrated. And also sometimes, I think you can give maybe too much information. .You may have a little something to add, but I think it’s a lot less than what people on the outside might perceive it to be."
Pees is obviously extremely familiar with how Belichick operates following a bye week.
"Well, that’s the thing about Bill," Pees said. "He can do a lot of change, and he can do no change. So it’s going to be whatever he thinks they need to do on both sides of the ball and on special teams to win the game. I’ve been there before where we did a lot of change in the bye week, and there’s times when we didn’t do any change in the bye week.
"Sometimes you self-scout each other. I can still remember one time we self-scouted ourselves on defense, and I noticed that on first-and-10, I never ran any pressures. I told Bill that during the bye week. I said, ‘I’ve studied myself and I’ve noticed that I’ve never pressured on first down. I probably should change that.’ And he looked at me and goes, ‘We’re No. 1 in the league in first down defense. Why?’ OK, makes sense to me. If you’re doing well, make somebody make you change. Don’t overanalyze."
QUICK HITS: Wilson returned three kickoffs for 60 yards, including a long return of 26 yards, against the Broncos. He’s unsure if it’s going to be a permanent role. "It’s on the coaches," Wilson said. "One thing I’ve learned about this game since I got traded here is it’s all on the coaches.” Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg didn’t make it sound like it would be a one-game experiment. “It’s a one-game evaluation, but he ran the play where he was supposed to run the play,” Rosburg said. “Beyond that, our fouls really were the disappointing part of that whole performance. He really didn’t get a chance to display what he can do in the open field. So, we need to coach better, we need to block better, and we need to stop making penalties. Then, Josh’s skills, I think, will show themselves.” … The Ravens consider Patriots kick returner Brandon Tate to be extremely dangerous. He’s already returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this year. Rosburg said there’s a contrast, though, between Tate and Cleveland Browns star return man Josh Cribbs. “The fact that they’re both home run hitters is very similar,” Rosburg said. “Their style is very different. Josh is more of a power player. This player is much more of a speed player, and he is really fast. The thing that we have to do is we have to be really disciplined in our lane play, and we have to really be disciplined in our technique to try to get off of very good blockers and keep him in front of us and try to do the best we can to make it dirty and be good tacklers. This guy, if you give him space, he’ll make you pay.” … Brady is 13-1 in regular-season games against AFC North teams. He has thrown 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 98.4 quarterback rating against AFC North teams in the conference. He had a rough outing, though, against the Ravens in the playoffs last season. "We got manhandled by a damn good team," Brady said. "Everything we said we wanted to do, we didn’t do. Penalties. Turnovers. We couldn’t convert on third down, couldn’t control the tempo of the game. I have a lot of respect for these guys. They play really hard. They’re well-coached. They have a very physical, a very emotional team. They play with energy and enthusiasm, and I think you have to match that. Once they get fired up, it’s tough to calm them down." … The Ravens and the Jets have been installed as co-favorites to win the Super Bowl by Bodog at 7-1 odds.