OWINGS MILLS – Fabian Washington isn’t accustomed to sitting on the bench, and the Baltimore Ravens’ cornerback doesn’t expect to make it a habit.
Benched by coach John Harbaugh for Frank Walker after struggling in single coverage against Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice, Washington expects to regain his starting job this week against the undefeated Denver Broncos.
“This ain’t my first barbecue,” Washington said. “I’ve pretty much seen everything that can happen. It is what it is. I’m just ready to play football. I’ll be there come Sunday.”
With Domonique Foxworth expected to draw the matchup with Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall, Washington will likely line up across from Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Stokley at times.
Has his confidence been shaken by the demotion?
“My confidence has never been down,” Washington said. “My technique isn’t what I want it to be thus far, but I’m working on that.”
“I ain’t hiding nothing. We’re going out and competing and the best player is going to play. I’ll be back to being Fabian on Sunday.”
INJURY UPDATE: With offensive tackle Jared Gaither (neck) and quarterback Joe Flacco (sprained ankle) participating fully in practice, there were two unexpected names on the injury report.
Free safety Ed Reed didn’t practice due to an illness, but was at practice dressed in sweats. And linebacker Tavares Gooden has an unspecified head injury after suffering a concussion earlier this season.
Gooden seemed to be fine before practice.
Flacco doesn’t expect his sprained right ankle to be a problem after being held out of practice last week.
“My feet are great,” he said. “I feel good. I’m ready to go.”
Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (shoulder) and wide receiver David Tyree (hamstring) participated fully.
Meanwhile, Broncos defensive lineman Ronald Fields (hamstring) didn’t practice.
Strong safety Brian Dawkins (hamstring) was limited and linebacker/fullback Spencer Larsen (shoulder) participated fully.
FINISHING STRONG: The Ravens rank second in the NFL with 66 points in the fourth quarter and third overall after halftime with 101 points in the second half.
“You make adjustments but the adjustments aren’t anything you haven’t worked on all week,” Harbaugh said. “Maybe you save some things for the second half; maybe you don’t. I just think it’s a matter of coming out and playing with responsibility and being physical and maybe coming up with a call or two here or there that makes the difference in any game.”
Conversely, the Ravens have scored just seven points in the first quarter during their three-game losing streak.
“The last three weeks, we’ve been kind of like that thermostat,” wide receiver Derrick Mason said. “We’ve been on 65, 70 the first two or three quarters, and then all of a sudden we kick it up to 90 and 100.
“It’s good at times, but we have to be able to start off at 100, like we did the first three games, to be able to come out first drive and establish ourselves, and enforce our will. I’m very confident that from here on out, we will do that. So, we have to start off at 100 degrees from here on out.”
Meanwhile, the Ravens’ defense ranks 19th overall, 23rd against the pass and 10th against the run.
The defense has given up a lot of big plays lately, allowing 25 gains of at least 20 yards.
“We had a chance over the bye week to go back and really study what we’re doing, how we’re doing it,” Harbaugh said. “Schematically what we can do, fundamentally what we can do, technique-wise what we can do, all those specific issues.
“Specifically, we need to do everything better. We need to cover better. We need to pressure better. We need to play better run defense. We need to scheme better. We search for improvement in every area.”
TOOK A PASS: When the Ravens were searching for a new head coach after firing Brian Billick two years ago, they sought permission from the New England Patriots to interview offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
The future coach of the undefeated Broncos declined the Ravens’ invitation, staying with the Patriots for one more season.
So, why didn’t McDaniels interview in Baltimore?
“The two reasons why it wasn’t really the right time for me was No. 1, the season that we were in required a lot of our time and we were putting a lot into it,” McDaniels said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters in reference to the Patriots’ undefeated regular season.
“We tried to finish it the way we wanted to. Secondly, this didn’t feel like I was as ready as I wanted to be to handle that kind of challenge.
“I didn’t know at the time how much more time I was going to need to feel like I was capable of doing it. I certainly didn’t feel like that was the perfect time for me and moved on, finished that season and tried to improve myself in that area when I could during the course of the offseason last year. I feel much better about it this year.”
The Ravens wound up hiring Harbaugh after interviewing him, Jim Caldwell, Tony Sparano, Rex Ryan, Jason Garrett and Brian Schottenheimer.
ADVICE: With rookie cornerback Lardarius Webb’s role expected to expand this week in the Ravens’ nickel package, Washington offered some advice to the third-round draft pick.
“The speed of the game from college to the pros is totally different,” Washington said. “The first action in the game, it can be like a deer stuck in the headlights because everything is going so fast. It’s a lot different. Then, you just move forward.”
QUICK HITS: Harbaugh praised Dawkins, whom he previously coached with the Philadelphia Eagles. “Brian’s a Hall of Famer, beyond question,” Harbaugh said. “He’s one of the best safeties to ever play the game. He’s definitely their emotional leader. He sets the tempo before and after the play. I just admire him, respect him and am looking forward to seeing him.” … As far as Harbaugh can tell, Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey remains on top of his game. “Champ Bailey is, if not the best corner in the league, he’s one of the top couple,” Harbaugh said. “The key fact is that he’s playing at the same level right now. You can see it on tape.” … A self-avowed Philadelphia Phillies fan, Flacco offered no predictions on the World Series. “I’d like to see the Phillies win,” he said. “It should be a really good World Series. I have no idea who’s going to win. They both have great lineups.” … Mason couldn’t resist sarcastically pointing out the extra protection NFL officials seems to provide to star quarterbacks. “You have guys around your legs, guys going at your head except if you’re Tom Brady and Peyton Manning,” he said. “Then, no one can get close to you.” … Ravens running back Ray Rice loves playing in Baltimore, but he’s not a fan of crab cakes. “I’ve heard ‘football and crab cakes,’ too bad I’m allergic to that shellfish,” Rice said. “Crab cakes aren’t going to cut it for me, but football and salmon will do me good.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.