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OWINGS MILLS — The prospects of Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis recovering from a severely bruised back in time to return Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers have been upgraded, according to coach Brian Billick.
Although Lewis has missed two consecutive games since injuring his back Nov. 5 against the Cincinnati Bengals, team officials are hopeful that having a pocket of blood drained from his back last week should accelerate the healing process.
â€œHe seems to be moving around very, very well,â€ Billick said. â€œThe things they have done to alleviate the pressure, heâ€™s just moving a lot better. Weâ€™ll find out on Wednesday, but right now Iâ€™m fairly optimistic.â€
Tight end Daniel Wilcoxâ€™s right hamstring injury is a greater cause for concern.
Injured in a 24-10 win Sunday over the Atlanta Falcons, Wilcox said he wasnâ€™t sure if he would be able to play against Pittsburgh. Rookie Quinn Sypniewski would take his place.
â€œHeâ€™s probably the biggest concern on the list,â€ Billick said of Wilcox, who has caught 17 passes and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, right offensive guard Keydrick Vincent remains a question mark after missing the Atlanta game with a groin pull. He was replaced capably by second-round draft pick Chris Chester.
â€The strength seems to be pretty good,â€ Billick said. â€œItâ€™s good that he didnâ€™t have to go on Sunday. Weâ€™ll see how he progresses through the week.â€
Chester was a tough self-grader for his performance in his first NFL start, but the 6-foot-3, 305-pound rookie received solid reviews from the coaching staff following his debut.
â€œPlayed very well, a few times he got a little anxious,â€ Billick said. â€œHe held up well physically. Heâ€™s a very good athlete.
"He can get into trouble and get back out of it. At about 300 pounds, he might be a little vulnerable at his size, which is funny to say.â€
STICKING WITH LEWIS: Billick appeared to take vindication from his somewhat unpopular decision to stick with running back Jamal Lewis, who rushed for 91 yards and tied a career-high with three touchdown runs against the Falcons. Fans have been clamoring for the team to give more playing time to Musa Smith and Mike Anderson.
â€œIâ€™ve had faith in Jamal all along,â€ Billick said. â€œI know better than most having looked at the film and lived it, I know where he could be better and where he isnâ€™t as responsible. I know the easiest thing in the world is to say, â€˜Letâ€™s put another guy in there.â€™â€
NOT DRESSING UP: Although former Ravens assistants Mike Nolan and Jack Del Rio are sporting suits and ties on the sidelines for the San Francisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively, Billick isnâ€™t inclined to join them in donning business attire.
â€œTheyâ€™re a lot better looking than I am,â€ Billick said. â€œIâ€™m somewhere between them and Bill Belichick.â€
QUICK HITS: Billick accepted partial responsibility for the four false-start penalties his team committed in the first half against the Falcons. â€œThe whole first half was one of a lack of rhythm,â€ he said. â€œI had as much to do with that as they did. I donâ€™t know that I started off with play-calling that helped them get in a rhythm much, but we sorted some things out.â€ â€¦ Stocky nose guard Kelly Greggâ€™s 10-yard sack at the end of the third quarter of elusive Falcons quarterback Michael Vick still reverberated a day later at the teamâ€™s training complex. â€œBuddy Lee is an amazing guy,â€ Billick said. â€œYou always underestimate him. I guess he kind of caught Michael Vick off guard.â€ â€¦ Several teammates referenced Ray Lewisâ€™ speech prior to kickoff. â€œHe said heâ€™d give anything to get one snap,â€ defensive end Trevor Pryce said. â€œAnd you looked in his eyes and he was serious, dead serious.â€ â€¦ Quarterback Steve McNair presented a $5,000 check through his foundation Monday to the Maryland Food Bank. â€¦ Several players are providing Thanksgiving dinners to families at various regional locations today, including wide receiver Mark Clayton and Ray Lewis assisting 400 families at Diakon Center in East Baltimore, fullbacks Justin Green and Ovie Mughelli at Owen Brown Inter-Faith Center in Columbia, linebacker Bart Scott at Helping Up Mission in Baltimore and linebacker Adalius Thomas to 300 residents of Pigtown at Paul’s Place Outreach Center. Safety Ed Reed assisted families of students at Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore on Monday.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland