OWINGS MILLS — Baltimore Ravens starting left offensive guard Ben Grubbs is officially doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans due to a right toe injury that sidelined him all week in practice.
He’s being characterized as a game-time decision by coach John Harbaugh.
"I don’t really know right now," Grubbs said. "I’m just trying to take it one day at a time. Rehab and treatment were really big. I made some pretty big steps. So hopefully, I can help. That’s what I’m looking forward to."
Grubbs has started 67 consecutive games at left guard, playing through several minor injuries.
If Grubbs is ruled out, the Ravens would go with five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode in his place.
"I think we just don’t know, it’s going to be a game-day decision," Harbaugh said. "We’re OK with him playing without this week of practice. He’s our best option. If he can go, he will. It’s a toe, it’s getting better.
"It’s not serious, but there’s no guarantee he can play. I’m pretty confident he will play, but we’re just going to have to see."
Grubbs said that practice is usually a necessity for him to play effectively
"I’m one of the guys that has to practice," Grubbs said. "But not practicing, the world isn’t going to end. I think I’ll be OK. I think the big thing is, you just have to get mental reps. That’s what I’ve been doing all week: studying my game film, studying my playbook, doing the things I can control."
Grubbs’ toe is still swollen, but he’s no longer in a protective walking boot.
"When people hear the toe, they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s nothing,’" Grubbs said. "Even though it’s the smallest part of your body, it’s a huge part in running around, pushing off, and blocking, especially in my position. It’s my first time experiencing this, so I don’t really know what to expect. God willing, I’ll be able to play."
Gurode is a former Dallas Cowboys lineman who was signed to a one-year contract before the season. He has started 38 games at guard.
"It’s something we’ve been working at," Gurode said. "If the team needs me, then I’ll fill in. I’ll bet with a guy like Matt Birk making the calls everybody will be on the same page."
Meanwhile, the Ravens ruled out cornerbacks Chris Carr (left hamstring) and rookie Jimmy Smith (left high-ankle sprain).
Smith is out for at least a few games.
Carr didn’t practice all week after aggravating a leg injury that started bothering him early in training camp and prompted him to visit a Texas specialist.
"It’s getting better," Carr said. "We’re going to be smart with it."
Wide receiver Lee Evans’ left ankle injury is improving. He has practiced for the past two days and is listed as probable along with fullback Vonta Leach (foot). Leach wasn’t on the injury report until Friday.
"He’s rehabbing it," Harbaugh said. "He’s going to play. Obviously, I hope it’s going to continue to get better. He’s got a little pain in his foot, but it’s not anything he can hurt any worse by playing or practicing.
"We’re monitoring it, working it. He’s got some orthotics that should help a little bit. He’s doing OK."
Titans starting safety Chris Hope is doubtful with a dislocated shoulder and starting defensive end William Hayes (shoulder) is questionable. Hayes didn’t practice the past two days, and Hope didn’t practice all week.
Backup wide receiver Damian Williams (hamstring) is questionable.
The following Titans are probable: defensive ends Jason Jones (knee) and Derrick Morgan (knee) and backup running back Javon Ringer (back).
The Titans removed starting wide receiver Nate Washington (non-injury related) from the injury report.
ILLEGAL BLOCKS?: Harbaugh staunchly defended the offensive line after it was accused of illegal chop blocks by Pittsburgh Steelers nose guard Casey Hampton, saying what the Ravens are doing is legal under NFL rules.
"The blocking scheme we’re talking about is one that almost every team in the National Football League runs," Harbaugh said. "We’ve been running it for years. Some teams do it better than others. The block is absolutely legal. It’s 100-percent legal, it’s 100-percent ethical and there is no danger whatsoever with the way the block is being executed because it’s in front.
"The adjacent offensive lineman on a run play that’s away can cut the next defender. It’s the defender’s responsibility to not hold the center and keep him from getting up on the linebacker who the center is trying to block and expose himself. It’s his job to let that guy go and defend himself. When you choose to keep that center off that linebacker then you’re choosing to make yourself vulnerable to being cut in front. So, just play defense."
According to the NFL rulebook, Harbaugh is correct.
If a center is blocking a defensive lineman, then a guard next to him can chop out the defender’s legs. If a tackle was to take out a player locked up with the center, it’s illegal.
The Ravens weren’t penalized for chop blocks last season or during their 35-7 victory over the Steelers.
Nonetheless, the Ravens are gaining attention from NFL teams for their blocking techniques.
Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray suggested that his players will be ready to retaliate.
"They’re trying to cut you and do those things," Gray said. "You’ve got to make sure you’re doing something that’s hopefully going to hurt them, too. You can’t just be the recipient of everything. You’ve got to start doing something that’s going to get you back on track and hopefully they’ll tone that stuff down when you do something else."
HOMECOMING: For Ravens starting cornerback Cary Williams, this game provides a reminder of how he entered the NFL with the Titans as an unheralded seventh-round draft pick from Washburn.
Now, he returns to Nashville as a starter.
"It’s another opportunity to show I belong and deserve to be in this position," Williams said. "It happens to be a team I previously played for. They didn’t want me, and Baltimore gave me an opportunity. To a degree, I want to prove they made a mistake by letting me go.
"They didn’t give me too much of an opportunity. I don’t have any animosity or hardened heart toward them. They’re a great organization with great guys and I have some lasting relationships, but I do want to prove I belong and deserve what I’ve got now."
NEXT MAN UP: Rookie cornerback Chykie Brown is expected to be active Sunday after being a healthy scratch against Pittsburgh.
The fifth-round draft pick from the University of Texans seems to be catching onto the speed of the game now.
"I feel like I’m back in college," Brown said. "The game is slowing down for me and I’m starting to get comfortable in my position. On defense, I feel like I’m above a lot of rookies because of the lockout. I think I’ve caught on pretty quick."
Brown would likely play mostly on special teams if he’s utilized against the Titans.
"I’ve been working a lot, a lot of special teams, defense, too," Brown said. "I’ve been doing a lot on both sides. I’m excited that I’ll get a chance to show what I have on game day on Sunday."
Harbaugh has seen steady improvement from Brown, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the Ravens’ preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons.
"I think Chykie is making progress," Harbaugh said. "Chykie’s got a ways to go. He’s got to learn the defense, he’s got to become a more disciplined player, a more fundamentally-sound player. That was his issue, that’s why he slid to the fifth round.
"He’s a very talented guy that slid to the late fifth round for that reason and Chykie knows that. Those are the things that we’re working on. I think if you put Chykie out there right know physically, he’d be able to handle it. It’s just a matter of getting better every single day with the details of the game."
OLD TIMES: Middle linebacker Ray Lewis will never forget those epic battles with the Titans during the old AFC Central days.
The Titans are now in the AFC South since the divisions were reconfigured, but they were once in a division with the Ravens, Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The series is tied at 8-8. The Ravens were the first team to defeat the Titans at the former Adelphia Coliseum, which is now known as LP Field.
The Ravens also defeated the Titans in an AFC divisional playoff game on their road to winning the Super Bowl during the 2000 season.
"For so many years, I played against the Titans," Lewis said. "There was nothing like that rivalry. We used to have kind of like the same rivalry that we have with Pittsburgh now. And to have Eddie George and, rest in peace, Steve McNair, and all those guys back then, it was just two teams going at it. And we always knew that one of us was going to be there at the end of the day.
"You know, 1999, they went to the Super Bowl, 2000, we came back and went to the Super Bowl. It was always a dog fight between us two. Honestly, we said the same thing and then look for the same thing coming up this week."
QUICK HITS: Deactivated for the Ravens’ first game, outside linebacker Sergio Kindle is still awaiting his first regular-season action after missing his entire rookie season with a fractured skull. "He’s doing a great job still out here," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "He’s working hard and learning the scheme, but just so happens there are a bunch of guys that have emerged. So, there’s a ton of competition there. He’s got to prepare like a starter, and if something happens and he happens to be up, he’ll be ready to go." … For rookie wide receiver Tandon Doss to forge a role, he’ll need to improve on special teams. That’s why he wasn’t active against the Steelers. "He’s been practicing hard on special teams since the day he got here," special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "Tandon brings a lot of skills to the table, one of which is his return ability. He’s competing with others for the gunner spot. He’s competing with other guys in kickoff coverage. It’s a decision that coach Harbaugh makes on the actives. We use the guys that he says are up. That’s really how it pans out. I’ve been impressed with how Tandon has improved since the day he got here up until this day, and he’ll continue to do it today." Added Harbaugh: "To be active on gameday, he needs to be in the top five to do enough for us. He’s doing very well. He’s practicing very well. He’s learning the offense. He’s growing. He’s definitely good enough to play, there’s no doubt about that. It’s just a matter of either or. If it wasn’t him, you’d be asking about the other guy that isn’t active. So, when you get 46 guys, that’s just how it works." … Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie visited the Ravens’ training complex Friday, attending practice. Guthrie and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata are friends and neighbors in Utah. … Backup nose guard Brandon McKinney recalled how he landed on Titans star running back Chris Johnson’s ankle during a playoff win three seasons ago. "I fell on him, that’s all," McKinney said of Johnson, who accused the Ravens of trying to hurt him. "He’s a great running back. He was getting some yards. He was getting ready to have a breakout game on us. This is going to be a pretty interesting game."