OWINGS MILLS — The theory about speed versus size is about to be tested again Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens’ cornerbacks take on imposing Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.
The Ravens feature two of the faster starting cornerbacks in the league in Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington, but both are relatively undersized.
So, they figure to be put to a severe test against Bowe.
Bowe is a 6-foot-2, 221-pound downfield target who caught 70 passes for 995 yards as a rookie two years ago. Last season he registered 86 receptions for 1,022 yards and seven touchdowns.
“He’s a big, physical, fast receiver,” said Foxworth, who will share the assignment of covering Bowe with Washington. I think he’s one of the young, up-and-coming receivers in the league, and I’m looking forward to the chance to match up.”
From his days with the Denver Broncos, Foxworth has significant experience against Bowe having squared off with him three times previously.
"I think anytime you’re a professional and you’ve had the experience of playing against somebody, you know what went good or what didn’t go real well," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "I know Domonique will have known how to play against him. He’ll be a real test for us. He’s a bigger receiver than we’re used to seeing every day in practice.”
Bowe’s presence tends to keep defenses honest, less inclined to crowd the line of scrimmage to collide with powerful running back Larry Johnson.
"Dwayne Bowe is physical, big and physical,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Great-looking guy, good hands, wants the ball, obviously, like all the great ones do. I’d say an up-and-coming star.”
Initially, Bowe failed to meet new Chiefs coach Todd Haley’s expectations and was demoted to third-string.
Reinstated as a starter now, Bowe is expected to be the Chiefs’ featured receiver Sunday.
"I think Dwayne has made very good progress," Haley said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "He started out a little slow, but he’s starting to get it. He’s starting to get it and understand what’s expected of him, and I think Dwayne wants to be good, and that usually gives him a chance at success."
INJURY REPORT: Tight end L.J. Smith didn’t practice for the third day in a row due to a pulled left hamstring, and he’s regarded as extremely unlikely to play against Kansas City.
Smith was listed as doubtful on the injury report, which denotes a 25-percent chance he will play.
"If he’s ready to go Sunday, he will, and if he’s not, he won’t," Harbaugh said. "He’ll be a game-day decision."
Meanwhile, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (sprained left ankle, knee) is preparing to play. He’s listed as probable, but was limited in practice Friday.
"We put everything on the injury report," Harbaugh said. "We’re very open and honest. Any little thing is going to be on the injury report."
Inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (sprained right medial collateral ligament) took part in practice on a full-time basis and is listed as questionable, but won’t be suiting up this week.
Special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo (sprained right toe) is probable and participated fully in practice.
Wide receiver Mark Clayton reiterated that he’s recovered from the strained left hamstring that sidelined him during the preseason.
"It feels good, I’m excited," Clayton said. "I’m ready to play as much as I can."
Clayton is slated to start opposite Derrick Mason, but is likely to give way at times to Kelley Washington and Demetrius Williams.
Offensive guard Marshal Yanda said that he expects Chris Chester to start at right guard, but he expects to see some playing time less than a year removed from tearing three knee ligaments against the Indianapolis Colts.
"Chris is definitely playing guard," he said. "I think I’ll get in some. I’m definitely not starting."
Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel is listed as questionable and was limited again due to a sprained left medial collateral ligament. His mobility is reportedly limited.
The Chiefs listed former Ravens wide receiver Terrance Copper (hamstring) and cornerback Brandon Flowers (shoulder) as questionable.
TRYOUTS: The Ravens worked out former Pittsburgh Steelers fullback Carey Davis as well as former Philadelphia Eagles tight end Tony Curtis.
The team also worked out four other free agent tight ends and a fullback.
NICKEL DUTY: Kick returner Chris Carr signed with the Ravens partly because they offered him an opportunity to expand his role on defense.
He’s going to operate as the nickel back behind Washington and Foxworth as well as return punts and kickoffs.
"I always take pride in my defense," said Carr, who has switched to No. 25 from No. 30. "I’ve worked very hard at that and I really want to prove to them that I can play defense.
“I have to go above and beyond. I want to show them that I’m a good all-around player. It’s an honor to be out there on defense and I want to do as much as I can for the Ravens."
Rookie cornerback Lardarius Webb will fill in behind Carr on defense and will be on several special-teams units.
"When the game starts, the butterflies will be there," Webb said. "I’m a little anxious for the game. It’s exciting.”
GETTING STARTED: For rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher, this represents his first real test as he makes his first regular-season start.
After a strong preseason, the first-round draft pick doesn’t seem concerned about nerves.
"It’s the same thing, you play hard and do what you know how to do," Oher said. "It’s football. Everything will be all right."
For inside linebacker Tavares Gooden, it’s a time to justify the Ravens promoting him to the starting defense as the replacement for Bart Scott.
"I’ve been showing everybody w hat I can do," said Gooden, a third-round pick who spent the majority of his rookie season on injured reserve after undergoing hip flexor and sports hernia surgeries. "I’m trying to leave my mark here and show them that they made a great choice in the draft."
C-MAC NOT RETURNING: Former Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister is in the process of selling his posh Beverly Hills home and is moving back to Maryland and visited the training complex this week. However, McAlister won’t be rejoining the Ravens.
"Come back?" Harbaugh said. "No."
The three-time Pro Bowl selection did not mesh well with the coaching staff last season and was cut this offseason after declining to take a major paycut.
He has struggled to find a new NFL employer, but has repeatedly been linked in speculation to the Dallas Cowboys. McAlister has a history of off-field problems.
QUICK HITS: Former Ravens majority owner Art Modell, who retains one percent of the team, spoke with the team huddled around him after practice. "We all know what he’s meant to the NFL, we all know what he’s meant to this organization and he was just telling the guys that this is his 48th opener in the NFL," Harbaugh said. "That’s two times as old as most of our guys. The older guys know him. You can see the guys like Todd Heap, Ed Reed and Derrick Mason right up there in front because they’ve got such a great relationship with Mr. Modell. The young guys will have that same type of relationship with him as time goes on. He’s a big part of the Ravens." … The Ravens have instituted a policy banning cellular phones and laptops from practice. "There’s no cell phones, never has been," Harbaugh said. "There’s no cell phones at practice for anybody. We don’t have cell phones in meetings, we don’t have cell phones anywhere. It’s always been the policy." … Harbaugh said he took in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ exciting overtime win over the Tennessee Titans after putting his daughter, Alison, to bed. "She wouldn’t go to sleep," he said. "It looked like football we’re familiar with."