OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens drafted rookie Ed Dickson in the third round last spring with an eye on eventually installing him as their starting tight end in the future.
And the future is now for Dickson.
The former Oregon standout is expected to start Monday night against the Houston Texans with two-time Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap dealing with a painful hamstring injury.
Dickson will have help from fellow rookie Dennis Pitta, a fourth-round pick from Brigham Young.
"We need to prove we can make plays and fill in this spot," Dickson said. "We were brought in here to play. Coach told us he doesn’t see us as rookies. He sees us as kind of like vets. We’re up to the job this week. Todd, he’s a Hall of Famer in my eyes, and we want the offense to not miss a beat."
Dickson has caught eight passes for 112 yards this season, including a 58-yard reception against the Denver Broncos.
He caught three passes for 22 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but also had a key drop.
Heap’s productivity is tough to replace. He has caught 464 career passes for 5,439 yards and 41 touchdowns and has 37 receptions for 546 yards and five touchdowns this year.
Dickson finished his collegiate career with 124 receptions for 1,557 yards and 12 touchdowns, the most productive tight end in Oregon history.
"I’m getting a big opportunity," Dickson said. "I’m ready to go."
NGATA TO APPEAL FINE: Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata plans to appeal his $15,000 fine for breaking the nose of Pittsburgh Steelers star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"We haven’t filed it yet, but we will," Ngata said.
Ngata caught Roethlisberger with a hand to the face during the Steelers’ 13-10 win Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium and wasn’t penalized. It appeared to be inadvertent, but he was punished by the league office for "striking a defenseless quarterback in the face."
"I just swam over the guard and he ducked down as I was coming out to tackle him," Ngata said. "I think it’s kind of crazy, all this fining that they’re doing. But they’re going to just try to enforce the rules on us, I guess. They’re fining guys like crazy."
R. LEWIS ADVISES PLAYERS TO SAVE THEIR MONEY: Lewis has some advice for players in case a lockout commences for next season: Save your money.
"More importantly, not just save it, don’t spend a lot of it," Lewis said Wednesday at the Ravens’ training complex. "You really don’t know what’s going to happen, you just don’t know."
Lewis expressed frustration that the NFL Players Association and the NFL Management Council aren’t closer to brokering a new collective bargaining agreement after the owners opted out of the previous agreement negotiated between the late Gene Upshaw and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
"I know it enough to say it’s a bad thing, it’s a bad thing," said Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. "I don’t get it, realistically. I don’t get why both sides are so far apart when your product is who we are. We go out there and lay our lives on the line every time we step on the football field.
"That part should be respected and appreciated from Day One. The other business side about when you want to get into money or you want to get into this or that, I just think that’s a whole other issue. I think you always should protect your product, and that’s what my argument or my stand is."
Earlier this week, the NFL and NFLPA issued a joint statement announcing that the NFL had pushed back a deadline for the players’ union to file a collusion claim and the NFLP agreed to not file a collusion claim at this time.
There have been recent negotiating sessions, so this was regarded as a positive sign from the union, which is headed by executive director DeMaurice Smith, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Lewis is concerned, though.
"I think it’s going to be an issue for a lot of young guys," Lewis said. "A lot of young guys that don’t have their careers set and don’t have their futures in place. That year or whatever, however long we go without playing can be crucial for them.
"We have to fight for that. We have to fight so they understand. I’m telling guys to start to understand what’s going on with the CBA because if you don’t you’re going to fall so far behind because there’s so much going on. Like I said, Mr. Goodell, they’re trying to work it out and NFLPA is trying to balance it out. I just think more people need to become way more involved to really solve this thing."
CHESTER DENIES CHEAP-SHOTTING HARRISON: Offensive guard Chris Chester has denied the Pittsburgh Steelers’ accusations that he cheap-shotted outside linebacker James Harrison on an extra point.
Chester was flagged for a false start, firing off the ball and hitting Harrison.
"It was just a mix-up in the huddle, I kind of thought we were doing something else," Chester said. "I mixed it up. I can understand the way it looks, but it wasn’t anything malicious. No, that’s not really my style."
Harrison wasn’t injured on the play. Usually, offensive linemen stay in on extra points.
"Of course it was deliberate," Harrison told Pittsburgh reporters. "There’s no way that happens on an extra point because [offensive linemen] don’t shoot out. It’s obvious it was blatant. It was on purpose.
"Yeah it’s cheap, but when it comes down to it, it’s only a 5-yard penalty, they move back to the 7 and re-kick. It’s not going to hurt them."
Added inside linebacker James Farrior: "It was a dirty play."
Chester, playing his first game since suffering a lower leg infection weeks ago, doesn’t have a reputation for being a dirty player.
Harrison retaliated after the block and a scuffle ensued.
"I didn’t really feel it, if he did," Chester said. "It’s over now."
Harbaugh had no interest in discussing the dispute.
"I’ve got nothing to say about it," Harbaugh said. "That game’s history, and I’m not interested in talking about any of that really. It’s not relevant to what we’re trying to do in this game here. I could care less what [Harrison] thinks about that."
INJURY UPDATE: Heap didn’t practice Thursday.
Cornerback Fabian Washington was limited with a thigh injury.
Pro Bowl fullback Le’Ron McClain participated fully.
Although offensive tackle Michael Oher’s sprained right knee was heavily wrapped, he’s no longer listed on the injury report.
For the Texans, wide receiver Andre Johnson (high ankle sprain), defensive end Mario Williams (sports hernia) and tight end Garrett Graham (hamstring) didn’t practice.
The following players participated fully: quarterback Matt Schaub (knee), linebacker Brian Cushing (knee), offensive tackle Eric Winston (shoulder), offensive guard guard Mike Brisiel (shoulder), cornerback Glover Quin, tight ends Owen Daniels (hamstring) and Joel Dreessen (ribs) and linebacker Xavier Adibi (hamstring).
FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE: Lewis said he might chip in for inside linebacker Jameel McClain’s $40,000 fine for his hit on Steelers tight end Heath Miller.
"I told him I might try to help him, but that’s a rough one," Lewis said. "Once again, I don’t want to get into the fine thing again, but you see a guy just breaking on a ball. I understand defensive things here and there, but $40,000 is $40,000. We’ve got to do whatever we can do for him to definitely help him out."
Lewis said he thought it was a clean play. Miller suffered a concussion.
"Even when I saw his hit, I’m, like, ‘Good hit,’" Lewis said. "Then the next two days, you hear $40,000, and you’re like, ‘Wow, for real? For a hit?’ Once again, I think guys just have to keep moving on because they have a plan in play right now, and they’re going to execute it, from what they’ve shown.
" It doesn’t matter what you say, it doesn’t matter what you try to do. If you deal with it long enough, you’re going to drive yourself crazy. Play the game, have fun, and hopefully, those things don’t come your way."
TOUGH TASK: The Ravens’ pass protection has been substandard lately, allowing eight sacks over the past two games and 17 over the past five games.
"I just think we’ve had too many sacks the last four games," Harbaugh said. "I think we’ve had three or four sacks in the last few games, and to me it’s too many."
The job gets no easier this week.
Texans defensive end Mario Williams has recorded 8 ½ sacks.
Over the past three seasons, Williams has averaged 11 ½ sacks per year.
"He’s one of the best, no doubt," offensive tackle Marshal Yanda said. "Tall guy, long-armed guy, he’s a force. He’s a speed guy. We’ve definitely got to account for him and study him and do our best on him.
"He’s a damn good player. You can’t let that guy gets his hands inside you. He’s so long. You need to get into his chest cavity and stop him."
Williams is one of the most athletic defensive ends in the league.
"Mario Williams is another premier player," Harbaugh said. "You’ve got to know where Mario Williams is at all times."
FULL PADS: The Ravens had a fully-padded practice Wednesday, which is unusual this late in the season.
Harbaugh was looking to set a tone as far as intensity and being physical.
On Thursday, the Ravens were back in shells.
"You never take a break from who we are, identity-wise," Lewis said. "Even coming out of that game last week against Pittsburgh, he just wanted to come back and put us in pads so we could just get back to physical again. And everybody gets it. Everybody gets it as soon as he does it, whether we like it or not when he does it.
"Everybody gets it, and we came out and had a great day yesterday. We had a great day. We really got after each other – saw some different looks. So, I just think it’s a great overall concept what he did. And he started this years ago, so a lot of guys are really accustomed to it now."
QUICK HITS: Signed to the practice squad this week after being cut earlier this season, cornerback Danny Gorrer has been out of football since September. "I was supposed to go to the Texans, but the tryout didn’t happen," Gorrer said. "It’s long overdue. I’m very happy." … Harbaugh had no interest in discussing the no-huddle offense. "No, it wouldn’t be valuable and why would I want to do that," he said. … Lewis apologized for not conducting interviews after the game. "When you’ve been in this business long enough, you learn very quickly when you’re that emotional, there was nothing I would’ve said that probably would’ve been good," he said. "So I was like, ‘You know what? The best thing for me to do is keep [my mouth shut].’ As a leader, I knew I shouldn’t have done it, so I definitely apologize. Will it ever happen again? Hopefully we don’t lose like that again. But, bottom line is just move on and make sure it don’t happen again." … Texans coach Gary Kubiak praised outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. He obviously watched the Steelers game where Suggs had 1 ½ sacks and five quarterback hits. "He’s a Hall of Fame player," Kubiak said during a conference call. "I think he’s playing at the highest level I’ve ever seen him play at and damn, he’s played at a high level for a long, long time. So, I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a big, big challenge for us, but that’s anybody who plays him." … Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson has toughed out a high ankle sprain. "It’s been amazing," Kubiak said. "He doesn’t really practice except for one day a week and has had to take some shots during the course of games to play, but he just keeps giving it up for his team. It’s been pretty amazing to me, but that’s him. Andre is a warrior, doing whatever he can do for his football team to win." … Harbaugh described the influence his father, Jack Harbaugh, has had on him as a coach during a conference call with Houston reporters. "Everything revolves around the team," he said. "Your focus as a coach is that. It’s not all the peripheral that’s going into it. It’s not concerns that people have outside. It’s the team. My dad would always say, ‘Your job is to coach the team.’ Concern yourself with that and everything else would take care of itself."