OWINGS MILLS — The Baltimore Ravens took a step backward in the health department.
After practicing on a limited basis Wednesday, wide receiver Lee Evans and strong safety Tom Zbikowski didn’t practice at all Thursday.
Evans has been sidelined for the past two games with a left ankle injury that has bothered him since the preseason.
With Zbikowski still recovering from a concussion suffered against the New York Jets, Bernard Pollard is listed first on the depth chart ahead of him and is preparing to start Sunday against the Houston Texans.
"Very confident," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said when asked about Pollard. "It’s just next man up."
Meanwhile, offensive guard Ben Grubbs (right turf toe) has missed the past three games with strained ligaments with Andre Gurode replacing him in the lineup.
Grubbs was listed on the injury report as a limited participant even though he was only observing practice during the portion open to reporters.
Cornerbacks Chris Carr (left hamstring) and Jimmy Smith (high left ankle sprain) didn’t practice again and are expected to be out Sunday.
Reserve safety Haruki Nakamura (sprained right posterior cruciate ligament), wide receiver and kick returner David Reed (left shoulder), running back Anthon Allen (thigh) and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (right hamstring) were upgraded to full participation after being limited Wednesday.
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said that he’s encouraged about Reed’s progress. Reed got hurt covering a kickoff in the second game of the season against the Tennessee Titans.
"He’s practicing, so we’ll wait and see until Sunday, but it’s good to see him out there running around," Rosburg said. "He’s got a lot of energy. He’s excited to play. I hope he does. It’ll be a decision made by the doctors and the guys above my pay grade, but he sure looked good."
Getting Reed back could energize a languishing kickoff return game. He led the NFL with a 29.3 average last season as a rookie and set a franchise record with a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in an overtime win over the Texans last December.
"Yeah, that was huge," Reed said of last year’s score against Houston. "It felt great. It was a blessing. It was a bounce return and I broke a couple of tackles. It was good blocking and I just ran until I got into the end zone."
And Reed had a 77-yard kickoff return against the Titans.
He missed the first game of the season while serving a one-game suspension for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy and was sidelined for the playoffs and last two regular-season games with torn ligaments in his left wrist that required surgery.
It’s unclear if Reed will make a full return Sunday.
"It’s up in the air," Reed said. "It definitely feels better. I don’t know if I’ll play. It’s up to them. There’s some soreness, but I feel a lot better."
Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson (torn right hamstring) and fullback James Casey (strained pectoral) didn’t practice for the second day in a row.
And wide receiver Kevin Walter didn’t practice because of an illness.
Quarterback Matt Schaub (right shoulder) returned to practice , but was limited.
Pro Bowl running Arian Foster (quadriceps) and inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans (elbow, hamstring, knee) were limited again.
The following players were upgraded to full participation: starting defensive end Antonio Smith (ankle) and offensive guard Mike Brisiel (ankle, knee) as well as backup running backs Ben Tate (groin, Achilles) and Derrick Ward (ankle).
Participating fully: cornerbacks Jason Allen (knee, groin) and Kareem Jackson (knee) and wide receiver Jacoby Jones (knee).
NGATA APPEALING FINE: Ravens All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is still awaiting word on his pending appeal of a $15,000 fine for hitting New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez in the back.
The NFL punishment was assessed for Ngata’s crushing hit on Sanchez in the Ravens’ 34-17 win with the league office stating that the 6-foot-4, 330-pound defensive lineman lowered his helmet. Ngata wasn’t penalized during the game.
"I was playing the way I was taught," Ngata said. "I didn’t really like it. I didn’t agree with it. Hopefully, they can reduce it or take it off. I don’t think it was a dirty hit or a bad hit."
OHER AND STEVE JOBS: Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher found himself under attack recently, triggering a minor uproar when he revealed via his Twitter account that he was unaware of who the late Apple founder Steve Jobs was.
"Can somebody help me out?" Oher wrote on his iPhone. "Who was Steve Jobs!"
Once the avalanche of criticism started, Oher replied: "Wow you mean to tell me everybody knew who he was!! Man get real so many fake ppl! Lol."
Oher said he was caught off guard by the reaction to his question about Jobs and defended himself.
"Oh man, that was terrible," Oher said. "I grew up knowing Bill Gates. I didn’t know who Steve Jobs was. When did I have an opportunity to learn who Steve Jobs was? I didn’t get it. It was crazy how people responded.
"I’m a pretty smart guy, on and off the field no matter what people think. I asked the guys in the locker room and half of them didn’t know who he was before he died. It is what it is. People have their own opinions."
RAVENS ASK FANS TO ARRIVE EARLY: The Ravens are requesting that fans arrive early Sunday due to the NFL enhancing security measures in regards to more thorough screening.
Fans complained about lengthy waits to get into the stadium prior to the Jets game on Oct. 2.
"We will do a better job of getting our fans into M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday in a timely fashion," Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne said. "We do ask fans to arrive earlier, because our increased security practices make for a longer entrance process."
TEXANS’ DEFENSE IMPROVES: The Texans ranked last in the NFL in passing defense a year ago and 30th in total defense, allowing 267.5 yards through the air last season.
Now, the Texans have climbed to seventh in the NFL in total defense and rank sixth against the pass.
Under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who installed an aggressive 3-4 scheme, the Texans have recorded 15 sacks to rank fourth in the NFL.
"Probably the biggest key is we are pressuring the quarterback much better than we ever have," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "That is the key to being successful defensively in this league – you have to be able to make the quarterback get the ball out."
The Texans have lost outside linebacker Mario Williams for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, but have rookie defensive end J.J. Watt, rookie outside linebacker Brooks Reed and defensive lineman Antonio Smith. In the secondary, they added former Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
The secondary is playing a lot better this year.
"I think they have some good guys back there," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We are just going to have to make sure we do our best of running routes and staying confident in our ability to attack them."
REMEMBERING AL DAVIS: A former Oakland Raiders secondary coach, Pagano paid his respects with a salute to the late Raiders owner Al Davis.
"When that happened, I just looked back on it and I think, like everybody else, such an honor and privilege," Pagano said. "No. 1, he gave me a job. I was on the street, and I’ll always be in debt to him for that. An honor and privilege to be around a man that’s done so much for this game and is such a pioneer for this game. Just thinking back to everything that I learned from football to personnel and how you build a squad and all those type of things, he was a great man."