OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap could return as soon as Sunday against the Cleveland Browns after missing the past two games with a pulled right hamstring, according to coach John Harbaugh.
"I’m certain he’ll play, I assume it will be before the end of the regular season," Harbaugh said. "I was just talking to trainer Bill [Tessendorf] just now, he’s fairly optimistic that he’s going to play this week. Again, a hamstring is so hard to determine. I think Todd needs two or three good days of practice realistically. So, if that tips our hand a little bit so be it.
"We’re going to try to get him ready for this game. I think we’re going to need him. Of course we could have used him last time, but we only want a healthy Todd Heap. We also want a guy that’s going to be ready for the long haul. We don’t want to have a re-injury that would knock him out for more weeks. That’s kind of the line we’re walking right now."
The Ravens cut offensive guard Bryan Mattison and promoted tight end Davon Drew to the active roster from the practice squad.
Drew is a former fifth-round draft pick, an All-Conference USA selection at East Carolina. Mattison is the son of Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. He could be re-signed to the practice squad if he clears waivers.
"Well, he’s gotten better, he’s come a long way," Harbaugh said. "He’s a guy who was a college quarterback for a couple of years. They moved him to tight end at East Carolina, and I think he was behind the curve just as far as the nuances of the position.
"Wade Harman has done a great job with him. He’s gotten better and better. He’s got a lot of skill. We think he can be a physical blocker. We also think he’s got some pass receiving skills. He can open up and run for a big man. He’s a big guy, he’s 265, 270 pounds."
Harbaugh said that Drew was drawing interest from other teams, which prompted them to make the move.
"And we got our hand forced a little bit because at this time of year people are coming after our practice squad players," Harbaugh said. "A couple of our guys have decided to stay anyway. We made basically a roster decision that we think is best for our team long-term. We’re trying to hang onto two players. We’ve just got our fingers crossed that we’ll be able to do that."
WHERE’S THE FLAG?: One day after an angry Joe Flacco was infuriated by no penalty being called when he was kneed in the helmet after being sacked by Saints defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson, the Ravens are still wondering why their quarterback doesn’t garner the protection the league routinely grants to the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
"I would say that I saw just what you saw," Harbaugh said. "The guy appears to knee him right in the head after the play when he was on the ground. I mean, it’s clear-cut."
The Ravens are submitting film of the play to the NFL.
"I don’t know to make comparisons, but I know he’s not getting the calls and it’s a fact over the last three years," Harbaugh said. "That’s just documented. I think the officials do the best job they can, and we support them in trying to do the best job they can."
Veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason wasn’t nearly as diplomatic.
"I know his last name is not Brees or Manning or Brady, but our quarterback is very good: He needs to be protected just like the rest of the bunch," Mason said. "You can’t allow our quarterback to be hit after he throws the ball or he’s on the ground.
"That’s just not called for. If the league fines them, so be it. But if there’s a fine, then there should have been a flag as well."
A normally stoic Flacco was spitting curses when he complained about the call to officials.
"I have my things on the sidelines sometimes," Flacco said. "I don’t know that they always get caught. But apparently this one did. I wasn’t too happy at the time. It happens. I feel like I was hit late."
Harbaugh said he didn’t think he could summarize what Flacco said in words fit for a family newspaper.
"No, I’d probably rather not get into that," he said. "But it’s important for quarterbacks to stick up for themselves, and Joe did that."
JUMPING OFFSIDES: It’s a bad case of offsides for offensive tackle Michael Oher.
He committed his eighth false start of the season, his 11th penalty overall, against the Saints.
It looked like a Saints defensive lineman crossed into the neutral zone, but Oher may have moved first. Regardless, the Ravens and Oher are aware that this is a problem that has got to be addressed immediately.
"I think it’s something that we’ve got to get resolved," Harbaugh said. "He’s so quick and so athletic sometimes he beats it. Whether their guy jumped first or not, you can kind of frame-by-frame it, it’s hard for those guys to see it. We send all that in, and they talk to their officials about it. We have to clean that up. We still have too many pre-snap infractions on offense, and it puts us behind the eight ball."
Oher didn’t have an explanation for why he’s drawing so many penalties.
"I don’t know," Oher said. "It’s just something you’ve got to get corrected, something you’ve got to focus on. .. I got to stay in there. It’s something I’ve got to deal with."
NO UPDATE ON REED: The Ravens might have to get by without rookie kick returner David Reed against the Browns.
Reed suffered a concussion Sunday against the Saints and was replaced by Jalen Parmele, who averaged 26.3 yards on three kickoff returns with a long return of 38 yards.
"It’s a concussion, so we’ll just have to see," Harbaugh said. "They kept him out of the game. I don’t know if we’re optimistic or not. You just don’t know on concussions. He could be fine tomorrow, or he could be out for a couple of days."
Reed set a franchise record with his 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Houston Texans last week.
"If David Reed can’t go, it’s going to hurt, because he’s become a real special-teams anchor for us," Harbaugh said. "He’s a return guy; he’s been big in coverage, both in punts and kickoffs.
"And also we were trying to work him into the game plan a lot more at wide receiver. He was playing a lot at wide receiver before he got dinged on the kickoff return. "
ELLERBE RETURNS: No longer a healthy scratch after being deactivated for the past month since a rough game against the Atlanta Falcons, inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe recorded six tackles, his first NFL sack and a tackle for a loss in his most extended playing time since last season.
"It felt great, man," Ellerbe said. "It’s nice to be out there again. I was rusty because I hadn’t been out there so long. I just want to make the most of it and stay up."
Undrafted last year out the University of Georgia, Ellerbe was a starter last season next to middle linebacker Ray Lewis. However, Ellerbe fell out of favor during the offseason after he reported out of shape.
"He’s been down for four weeks, and that’s been tough for us, too," Harbaugh said. "He added a lot to our dime package, and he adds a lot to our special teams."
The Ravens deactivated wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth to make room for Ellerbe, much to Stallworth’s displeasure.
Stallworth had played in every game this season since returning from a broken foot.
Stallworth was displeased with the decision considering he was playing against the Saints, the team that drafted him with the 13th overall pick of the first round.
"No, I wasn’t limping at all," Stallworth said when asked if he was hurt. "I’m healthier now than I’ve been since 2007. It was a coach’s decision. I’m not going to lie and say I was happy about it. Definitely not happy. You always want to play, especially in a game like this, against my former team, the team that drafted me.
"This was the only game I was looking forward to throughout the whole season. And not to get to play, yeah, it’s disappointing. But we won the game, that’s the most important thing. That was the goal from the start of the week, not whether I was playing or not."
With the Ravens going with a run-first offense Sunday, Stallworth’s presence wasn’t needed until Reed got hurt.
"I won’t get into all that," Stallworth said when asked what the coaches told him about his status. "You can talk to the coaches about that and whatever they give you."
Stallworth is expected to be active this week, though.
"It just ends up being a tough numbers thing," Harbaugh said. "You know, Donte’ is a guy that I know can contribute for us in a big way. And, heck, with the David Reed situation, there’s every possibility that he’ll be up in this game. And that’s not a problem for us. Donte’ can be a big factor for us.
QUICK HITS: In a game where tempers flared, the Ravens didn’t back down to the Saints. And that was noted by Saints coach Sean Payton. "I’d say that’s a compliment to our guys, I hadn’t heard that," Harbaugh said. "We kind of felt that it was going to be that way. That’s one of their strengths. They come in, and they try to push teams around, and they try to do all the things that they do. And they talk and all that. It’s part of what makes them so good. They’re pretty darn good at it. But, we’ve been in those situations before, and I don’t think our guys are guys to be intimidated by anybody. It has really not been the Ravens’ style to be intimidated. I just thought we responded with composure and poise. That was probably the biggest thing, the personal foul penalties went the other way. That’s important. Hopefully, that’s something we can continue to build on." … The Ravens announced that they’ve gone 23 games in a row without allowing a third-quarter touchdown. It’s the longest in the NFL since 1933, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … The Ravens haven’t scored a second-half touchdown in the past five games. … Harbaugh was complimentary of inside linebacker Tavares Gooden’s work on Sunday. He finished with no statistics, but pressured Brees on a blitz package. "He was part of a certain pass rush package that we had in," Harbaugh said. "He really showed some spark. He was bringing it off the edge with some speed. He and Dannell was in that a lot, too, looked good doing that. I think we’ll probably see a lot more of that."