OWINGS MILLS – Although Haloti Ngata is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals with a sprained right ankle, the Baltimore Ravens’ big defensive tackle expressed confidence that his impressive durability streak won’t be stopped.
In his first interview this week since getting hurt against the Denver Broncos, Ngata rated his prospects of playing as an 8 or a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10.
“It feels great, actually it feels pretty good,” Ngata said Friday after not practicing for the third day in a row. “There’s not much swelling or anything, just stiffness and soreness. So hopefully, we can get it full to go and I’ll go for it.”
If he’s in the lineup, Ngata could provide a major boost to the Ravens’ run defense against hard-running Bengals running back Cedric Benson.
Ngata’s ankle didn’t appear to be swollen.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to go,” he said. “All that rest definitely helped my ankle.”
Ngata has started 55 consecutive games, never missing a game since being drafted in the first round of the NFL draft in 2006.
Naturally, Ravens coach John Harbaugh had no interest in making a prediction about Ngata’s status for Sunday’s kickoff.
“I wouldn’t be interested in doing that,” Harbaugh said when asked to evaluate Ngata’s chances of playing. “There is a chance.”
If Ngata is sidelined then the Ravens will start veteran Justin Bannan in his place.
“This ain’t my first rodeo,” Bannan said. “If I’m starting and have to play the whole game, I’ll do fine. I’ll do what I do, I’ll play hard. Haloti’s fine. I’m not even worried about him.”
Meanwhile, the Ravens tried out long snappers Joe Zelenka and Nathan Hodel on Friday as a precautionary measure in case long snapper Matt Katula’s elbow takes a turn for the worse.
Katula practiced Friday, is listed as probable and is expected to handle snapping duties against the Bengals.
Harbaugh recalled a game when he was an assistant coach at the University of Cincinnati where kicker David Rowe had to snap against Penn State due to an injury to the regular long snapper.
“We had to go into a game one time where the long snapper was the kicker,” Harbaugh said. “He was the kicker for kicks and the long snapper for punts. They went after him. He survived.”
Harbaugh doesn’t expect an encore performance with running back Willis McGahee or someone else having to fill in for Katula.
“That will not be the case in this game,” Harbaugh said.
The Ravens also listed safeties Haruki Nakamura (strained abdominal muscle) and Tom Zbikowski (illness) as questionable.
Nakamura was upgraded to full participation after being limited Thursday. Zbikowski was limited again.
The Ravens listed the following players as probable: linebackers Jarret Johnson (left shoulder) and Prescott Burgess (shoulder), tight end Todd Heap (ankle), fullback Le’Ron McClain (shoulder) and cornerback Frank Walker (illness).
The Bengals listed strong safety Roy Williams (forearm) as questionable as well as rookie offensive tackle Andre Smith (foot).
Cincinnati listed the following players as probable: fullback Jeremi Johnson (sprained left knee), defensive tackle Tank Johnson (foot), safety Tom Nelson (shoulder) and running back Bernard Scott (knee).
THANKS FOR THE GIFT: Flamboyant Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco’s gift baskets of deodorant for the Ravens’ defensive backs and linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis haven’t caused a big reaction in the locker room.
If anything, the deodorant was well-received and taken in good fun.
“It’s just Chad being Chad,” cornerback Fabian Washington said. “It was manly deodorant definitely, it was some Degree. We appreciate it around the locker room.
“People borrow deodorant all the time. I gave mine to Willis McGahee. It’s all in fun.”
The last time Ochocinco sent a gift to defensive players was five years ago prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns. He only caught three passes and the Bengals lost the game.
“I remember that,” Washington said.
Was Ochocinco trying to imply something about the Ravens’ hygiene?
“I’m kind of stinky, I guess,” cornerback Domonique Foxworth said with a smile. “I wasn’t important to get one of the gift bags.”
HOMECOMING: When wide receiver Kelley Washington played for the Cincinnati Bengals, he had a hard time consistently staying healthy and getting playing time after being drafted in the third round.
With the Ravens, Washington has developed into a key contributor on third downs.
“Going back and playing against a lot of the guys I played with, it’s going to be exciting,” Washington said. “It’s good to see them winning consistently and good to compete against them. This is one of those opportunities to show what I have and just try to make the most out of it.
“That’s what I’ve been waiting my whole career for. I’m not going to let this opportunity slip away.”
Washington, 30, was eventually replaced by Chris Henry when he was with the Bengals prior to playing for the New England Patriots for two seasons and catching one pass.
He’s not looking for revenge on the Bengals as much as vindication.
“I would like to show them what I can do and what I could have done for them,” he said. “I just want to be productive and I want us to win.”
The Ravens signed Washington after a minicamp tryout over Jerry Porter and Tab Perry.
Half of Washington’s 24 receptions have generated first downs. He’s coming off a four-catch, 58-yard game against the Broncos where he converted three third downs.
Operating out of the slot, the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder has a distinct size advantage over smaller nickel backs.
“I like the matchups,” he said. “I can use my size and speed to my advantage.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.