OWINGS MILLS – It was an expensive hit for Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
Ngata was fined $5,000 by the league office on Friday, a punishment stemming from his arm colliding with the helmet of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the Ravens’ 27-21 loss last Sunday.
Although Ngata didn’t appear to hit Brady very hard, he did make contact with the helmet and was penalized for roughing the passer.
According to an e-mail from a league spokesman, NFL officials determined that Ngata “unnecessarily struck the opposing quarterback in the head area.”
Ngata was fined an identical amount as Patriots defensive lineman Mike Wright for how he collided with Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s facemask.
Meanwhile, the NFL didn’t fine outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Suggs lightly grazed Brady’s knee, and was flagged for a 15-yard penalty.
The Ravens escaped being fined by NFL vice president of football operations Ray Anderson for their derogatory comments about the officiating.
“We just tell our guys to go by the rule and continue to play hard,” defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “If you have the opportunity to tackle the quarterback and hit the quarterback, continue to do that. It’s a human deal.
“A guy has got to make a judgment, and our defensive linemen know that their job and what they want to do is hit the quarterback. So, they want to do it to the letter of the law and keep being as aggressive as they can.”
INJURY UPDATE: Offensive tackle Jared Gaither didn’t practice all week due to a neck injury and is listed as questionable on the injury report for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Although Ravens coach John Harbaugh described Gaither’s status as a game-time decision, it’s extremely unlikely that he’ll play. Gaither has limited flexibility in his neck.
When asked if it would be safer to hold Gaither out this week, Harbaugh replied, “I don’t expect anything right now. No expectations. We’ll see how it goes on Sunday.”
Gaither would be replaced at left tackle by Michael Oher with Marshal Yanda starting at right tackle.
The Ravens upgraded outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (left shoulder) and cornerback Chris Carr (groin) to full participation in practice.
They were listed as probable as well as wide receiver Derrick Mason (neck), free safety Ed Reed (knee), Ngata (back), linebacker Tavares Gooden (shoulder) and wide receiver Demetrius Williams (illness).
Williams said he was tested and just has a normal variation of the flu.
“I’m feeling better,” he said. “I should be up for Sunday.”
Williams and Mason were both limited in practice.
Meanwhile, Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga and defensive tackle Domata Peko (chest) were both upgraded to full participation after being limited Thursday.
Defensive tackle Tank Johnson (plantar fasciitis) is questionable as well as safeties Chinedum Ndukwe (hamstring) and Kyries Hebert (hip).
Maualuga and Peko are listed as probable along with running back Cedric Benson (hip), safety Roy Williams (broken forearm) and cornerback David Jones (foot).
STARTING JOB: The Ravens are expected to start Dannell Ellerbe at inside linebacker for the second week in a row even though Gooden has recovered from the concussion that sidelined him last week.
“I don’t know,” Gooden said. “I’m just a player. I have nothing do with decisions about anything like that. That’s the most I can help you guys out with my status.”
Ellerbe impressed the coaching staff, registering six tackles in his first NFL start against the Patriots.
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison indicated that Gooden will share playing time with Ellerbe and Jameel McClain.
CONDOLENCES: Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s wife, Vikki Zimmer, died Thursday, the team announced.
“On behalf of our players, our coaches and the whole organization, we want to offer our heartfelt condolences to the Zimmer family,” Harbaugh said Friday to begin his press conference. “We have tremendous respect for Mike Zimmer and we just feel real bad and are very saddened for what happened.”
The couple was married for 27 years and has three children.
ZONE SCHEME: The Bengals have become more determined to run the football, adopting a new zone-blocking scheme similar to what the Denver Broncos trademarked under Mike Shanahan and Alex Gibbs’ direction prior to the shift to new coach Josh McDaniels.
The Bengals rank 11th in rushing offense, averaging 122.8 yards per game with Benson having rushed for 367 yards and two touchdowns
“They really have tried to establish the run,” Mattison said. “They’ve stuck with it, and they’ve become a zone scheme kind of like what Denver used to be where their offensive line is running off the football and Benson is coming downhill and looking for his cracks.
“They’ve been very patient trying to get whatever yardage they get, and, all of a sudden, they break one that’s a little bigger.”
MOVING ON: Chris Carr has accepted being stripped of the kickoff returner job as he was replaced by rookie Lardarius Webb.
“They didn’t explain anything to me, but I take it in stride,” Carr said. “I’ve got to concentrate on everything else they want me to do.”
And he has given Webb his blessing.
“I think he’ll do well,” Carr said. “He’s a rookie who came in with the right attitude and he works hard every day. He’s a player who has confident in his ability, but isn’t arrogant.
“You like to think that kind of player will succeed. A player like that is easy to root for. I think he’ll do well out there.”
Webb was a prolific kickoff and punt returner at Nicholls State.
“I’m looking forward to showing my playmaking ability,” he said.
QUICK HITS: Harbaugh was upbeat about how practice went all week. “The focus was very good,” he said. “Our guys bounced back on Monday, very sharp practices all week. Our challenge now is to carry it over to Sunday.” … Pro Bowl special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo was on every special teams unit with the exception of the field goal team. Ayanbadejo remains in Birmingham, Ala., as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn left quadriceps tendon. “It falls on the whole special teams,” linebacker Antwan Barnes said. “It can’t just be one guy who replaces Brendon. We’ve all got to step up.” … Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said that he’s not concerned about wide receiver Mark Clayton’s mental state after his crucial dropped pass on fourth down in the loss to New England. “Mark Clayton is a Raven, and I think that says it all,” he said. “We’re all chasing perfection. Does it always work? Absolutely not. I’ll guarantee you we’re going to back to that guy in the clutch.” … The Ravens have noticed the development of Bengals receiver Andre Caldwell, who caught the game-winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers. “They add him into the mix, so you’ve got a very good receiver,” Mattison said. … Yanda hasn’t started at right tackle since his rookie season, so he’s been making some adjustments as he prepares for Bengals defensive ends Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom. “I feel comfortable, I’m getting there,” Yanda said. “It’s a work in progress. It’s all about the footwork. It’s similar to guard. It’s just a wider set.”