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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Philip Rivers’ charmed existence in the NFL is virtually unprecedented. Traditionally, young quarterbacks are battered, confused and statistically-challenged when they launch their careers. Rivers, though, is undefeated in his first two starts under center for the San Diego Chargers.
Although San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer is content to have Rivers manage games while leaning heavily on All-Pro runner LaDainian Tomlinson, Rivers has completed 33 of 46 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
“He has done a great job of managing the game,” cornerback Samari Rolle said of Rivers, who only threw 11 passes in his NFL debut against the Oakland Raiders.
Rivers has posted the NFL’s second-highest passer rating (107.4) while completing nearly 72 percent of his throws.
“They are doing a great job of narrowing things down and letting him just be a quarterback where he can go out there and just use his athleticism,” Ravens quarterback Steve McNair said.
The 6-foot-5, 228-pound former North Carolina State standout hasn’t been sacked since replacing Drew Brees.
The Chargers’ offensive line — left tackle Marcus McNeill, left guard Kris Dielman, center Nick Hardwick, right guard Mike Goff and right tackle Shane Olivea — has protected him while only being flagged for two penalties.
“They’re an excellent, very physical group and they have a bit of an attitude, which is just what you want with your offensive line,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
Rivers has only been hit twice this year, each time completing passes for first downs.
The Ravens, who are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for the most sacks in the NFL with 16, are intent on changing that comfort level.
“San Diego hasn’t played the Baltimore Ravens yet,” said linebacker Bart Scott, who leads the AFC with five sacks. “They’ve done a good job, and it’s going to be a test for them. We’ll see what we’re made out of and they’ll see what they’re made out of.”
TRAINING ROOM: Safety Ed Reed was added to the injury report with a foot injury and missed practice. He received treatment and wasn’t available for comment. Safety is one of the Ravens’ thinnest positions with only Gerome Sapp available in reserve.
"Yeah, but we’re okay," Billick stressed. "They’re working through it. You get some bumps and bruises. We listed him appropriately."
Baltimore added rookie defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to the injury report as questionable with a back injury. Meanwhile, rush end Terrell Suggs missed his second consecutive practice with a hamstring injury and remains questionable.
When asked if he feels questionable, Suggs replied: "I don’t think so. We’ve got to see how it feels Sunday. Just because I want to play doesn’t necessarily mean I should."
Suggs increased his level of activity, running sprints.
"I did a lot more, did some sprinting and it felt really good," he said.
If Suggs can’t play, the Ravens would start Jarret Johnson and rotate in Gary Stills and Dan Cody, who has been inactive for the first three games.
Tight end Todd Heap (ankle), offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo (arm), linebacker Bart Scott (foot) and wide receiver Demetrius Williams (arm) are questionable, missing a portion of team drills.
Heap aggravated scar tissue in his surgically repaired ankle while stretching at home last Friday night, but caught five passes against the Browns. "The swelling is still the same," Heap said. "It’s just a matter of getting it out of there and hopefully it’ll be back to normal."
QUICK HITS: Rivers throws with a nearly sidearm delivery, but hasn’t had many deflected passes. “He’s very athletic and he’s a big man, so that mitigates it a little bit,” Billick said. “He’s a near-sidearm pitcher, but it’s not like being 6-foot throwing that way.” … San Diego features a capable reserve presence behind Tomlinson with Michael Turner. With Turner’s 175 yards, including 138 last week against Tennessee, the Chargers are the only team in the NFL with two running backs with more than 175 rushing yards. “If they have another kind of back like LaDainian Tomlinson, I’m not going to show up,” Billick quipped. … The Chargers are down two safeties following starting strong safety Terrence Kiel’s indictment on federal drug charges and reserve Bhawoe Jue undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Clinton Hart will start in place of Kiel opposite Marlon McCree. The Chargers’ injury report lists Kiel as out for "personal reasons."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.