RAVENS NOTEBOOK: Receiving corps could be shorthanded

Street Talk RAVENS NOTEBOOK: Receiving corps could be shorthanded

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OWINGS MILLS — The Baltimore Ravens could be shorthanded again at wide receiver Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

Starter Mark Clayton didn’t practice Wednesday after missing the Ravens’ 48-3 win over the Detroit Lions with knee and hamstring injuries.

Plus, wide receiver Kelley Washington didn’t practice due to a sprained ankle.

So, the Ravens had to go with Demetrius Williams and Justin Harper opposite veteran Derrick Mason in practice.

In another indication regarding the Ravens’ concern about their injury situation at wide receiver, they signed former CFL wide receiver Maurice Price (Calgary Stampeders, Charleston Southern) to the practice squad one day after he tried out for the team along with receiver Jason Chery.

The offensive line is banged-up, too. Center Matt Birk has been dealing with a neck injury for the majority of the season and didn’t practice Wednesday with Chris Chester handling the snaps in his place.

Offensive tackle Jared Gaither (foot, lower back) didn’t practice as well as free safety Ed Reed (groin/foot), linebacker Jarret Johnson (knee, back, left shoulder) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (sprained right ankle).

The majority of those players are expected to play Sunday, but Clayton, Reed and Gaither’s assorted ailments are cause for concern.

If they’re sidelined again, then rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher would start at left tackle for Gaither with Tom Zbikowski and Washington would start. If Washington is out, then Demetrius Williams would get the start.

Tight end L.J. Smith (sprained ankle) didn’t practice, but predicted he’ll return this week after missing the past few games with an injury suffered against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 29.

“It’s the best I’ve felt,” he said. “I think I’m turning the corner. I should probably be able to play this week. I turned the corner Tuesday. I feel good, I feel like I should be good.

“I think I’ll be up. I think I’ll be able to test it out in practice and see how it goes. I got hurt in the Pittsburgh game on a punt return, dude tackled me trying to get [punt returner] Chris [Carr]. It’s just a real bad sprain.”

Also not practicing: safety K.J. Gerard (thigh) and nose guard Brandon McKinney (back). Mason (finger) and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (sprained medial collateral ligament) were limited.

Quarterback Joe Flacco isn’t listed on the injury report after battling hip, ankle, knee and shoulder problems this season.

PATIENCE REWARDED: After improving his work habits in practice and concentrating on his technique, outside linebacker Antwan Barnes was rewarded with increased playing time over the past two weeks.

He has generated a consistent pass rush and recorded his first sack since a 2007 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins during Sunday’s win over the Lions.

“I had some things I needed to improve on,” Barnes said. “Practice has been going better for me, just knowing my stuff. I’ve known all the packages and calls, it’s just going in there and executing.”

Barnes wouldn’t have picked up the sack if not for coach John Harbaugh’s successful instant-replay challenge that determined that quarterback Daunte Culpepper was down.

“They weren’t going to challenge it at first,” Barnes said. “It’s a good head’s up on Harbaugh’s part.”

HOT TICKET: Zbikowski is a Chicago native who has had to meet heavy ticket demands this week from friends and relatives. He has one requirement: They need to root for the Ravens.

“They can wear their Bears stuff, but not around me,” he said. “They’re fans of me.”

Zbikowski wasn’t necessarily a Bears fan growing up, but he was a huge fan of certain players.

That includes his secondary coach, former Bears Pro Bowl safety Mark Carrier.

“I was a big Jim McMahon and Walter Payton fan,” he said. “I was a quarterback, so I watched McMahon and the other guys who carried the ball a lot.”

NOT INTERESTED: Middle linebacker Ray Lewis doesn’t seem to care that former Ravens coach Brian Billick returns to Baltimore Sunday as the color analyst for FOX’s broadcast.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” he said. “Bottom line, I’m not playing against him. It doesn’t matter who is commentating the game. We’re getting prepared to play the Chicago Bears.”

QUICK HITS: Bears wide receiver Devin Hester (calf), cornerback Zach Bowman (illness) and cornerback Charles Tillman (back) didn’t practice. … Defensive tackle Tommy Harris (knee) was limited. … Offensive tackle Orlando Pace, who visited the Ravens during the offseason and considered signing with them before inking with the Bears, participated fully despite a groin injury. … The Ravens were high on speedy Bears rookie wide receiver and kick returner Johnny Knox heading into the NFL draft. The Bears picked him in the fifth round three selections after the Ravens drafted Texas Christian linebacker Jason Phillips, who’s on injured reserve with a knee injury. Knox has caught 41 passes for 498 yards and five touchdowns. “We loved him in the draft, we really liked him at the combine,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not just his speed. He’s kind of a water bug. He’s really got great body control, and he’s got very good hands. He’s a return guy, and their kickoff return game is one of the best in the league right now. So, he just brings a lot of dimensions and he’s a home run threat every time he touches it.” … Lewis said he has no intentions of dialing up Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning to request that he go all-out against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are narrowly ahead of the Ravens in the AFC wild-card playoff race. “It will all take care of itself,” he said. “This is going to play out. The bottom line is the thing I’ve been telling the guys around here: Let everything else control itself. The bottom line is if we don’t win, we’re not in ourselves. To worry about if Jacksonville wins, if Denver, whoever, whoever, whoever, is just too much. It’s just too much to worry about.” … Lardarius Webb, the Ravens’ third-round draft pick who’s starting at cornerback and returning kickoffs, acknowledged the existence of the so-called rookie wall. “You feel that, but you have to pay attention to the older guys and see how they handle their bodies and what they eat and when they get in the cold tub,” he said. “I pay attention to the older guys, so it’s not as much on me now. I’m trying to take care of my body as much as possible.” … The Ravens are breaking out their alternate black jerseys along with white pants for Sunday’s game. It’s the first time they’ve worn that combination since beating the Washington Redskins last season at M&T Bank Stadium.


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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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