OWINGS MILLS – If the Baltimore Ravens are about to fall into a trap Sunday against the Denver Broncos following an emotional victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, then it won’t happen because of a lack of awareness or vigilance.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he raised the issue with his team Wednesday morning.
"That’s something we’ll all be very vigilant about," Harbaugh said. "We talked about it. We understand that as a team. Our guys get that. I’m not going to have to walk in there and tell these guys you had a big win, so you can relax.
"We’re playing the best passing offense in the league. We’re playing a real physical, get-after-it defense. This is a very important football game. It’s a home conference game. They understand that."
The Ravens’ history after Steelers game does create some cause for concern.
Baltimore is 3-6 in games immediately after playing their archrivals.
The Ravens are even worse after beating the Steelers, going 1-3 in the ensuing game.
Does Harbaugh believe in the so-called trap game?
"I’ve never liked the term," Harbaugh said. "The only trap I know about is when you pull a guard and hit a tackle and run it straight up the middle. That’s a trap.
"I think it’s a bettor’s term, actually. For us, it doesn’t really exist and we don’t care. They’ve got a lot to play for. They’ve got a lot of talented guys. So, it’s going to be a big challenge for us."
Last year, the Ravens beat the Steelers in overtime in Baltimore.
The following week, they lost by 13 points to the Green Bay Packers.
"There’s a week between a game, just like there is every other week," said quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw the game-winning touchdown last week. "If you can’t get your emotions back in check and get ready to play the game, then we’re not the team that we think we are."
All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis said there shouldn’t be any lack of intensity after winning three of four games with only one home game.
"We got through the first quarter of the season 3-1 playing three hard games on the road," Lewis said. "Now, coming back home and having that momentum, offense, defense and special teams, now we can kind of carry that momentum coming home. If we have any motivation, that would be it."
Harbaugh acknowledged that the Broncos against the Ravens doesn’t carry the same type of extra emotions involved with the fierce Pittsburgh-Baltimore rivalry.
The Ravens are 4-0 at home against the Broncos, including the playoffs, so it doesn’t exactly qualify as a true rivalry.
"Well, it’s not Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh," Harbaugh said. "It’s Denver at Baltimore. Every game, every challenge stands on its own two feet. We love playing Pittsburgh. I think Pittsburgh loves playing the Ravens. It’s probably the greatest rivalry in the NFL. We sure think so.
"But this game is really important. It probably comes back down to preparation, to attention to detail, to what you do in the meeting room, to what you do on the practice field. I guarantee our guys are going to be excited to play on Sunday. They know who they’re lined up against. They know what the challenge is, and we’ll have to be up for it."
HOUSH NOT HAPPY: Veteran wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught the game-winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers, hauling in an 18-yard strike.
However, he’s not satisfied with his complementary role behind starting wide receivers. Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap.
The former Pro Bowl selection ranks sixth on the team with five receptions for 80 yards with one touchdown.
Houshmandzadeh said the Ravens assured him he would catch 50 to 60 passes prior to signing a one-year deal after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks.
"For me, I knew coming in what I was getting myself into," Houshmandzadeh said. "But I believe in myself. So the belief in myself said once they see me, things will change. We’ll see if that holds to be true."
He has seen limited action in the past few games after struggling against the Cincinnati Bengals, his old team, when he failed to come down with big catches with two drops.
"I was shocked that I played as much as I did in the first and second game," Houshmandzadeh said. "I wouldn’t say that got me greedy, but then I expected it, so to speak. But then I didn’t play much against Cleveland."
Houshmandzadeh said he hasn’t complained to quarterback Joe Flacco and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron about not being more heavily involved.
He knows that people are probably aware of how he feels about not being utilized more.
"The bad part of my personality is I tend to not to say it but my body language says that," Houshmandzadeh said. "That’s bad but that’s who I am. Q [Boldin] is going to be happy. That’s just the reality of it.
"Q and Heap, they’re going to get their balls. They brought Q in, they gave up draft picks and gave him a nice contract. They’re going to find ways to get him the ball. I can appreciate that. I wish it was me, but it’s not."
INJURY UPDATES: Free safety Tom Zbikowski was limited in practice with a thigh injury and is questionable on the injury report.
Zbikowski is still expected to play, though. If he’s out, Haruki Nakamura would start opposite Dawan Landry.
Outside linebacker Edgar Jones (bruised thigh) is questionable as is inside linebacker Jason Phillips (illness).
Starting cornerback Fabian Washington returned to practice Friday after being held out Thursday.
"He’s OK," Harbaugh said. "He just had a little tweak."
Running back Ray Rice (bruised right knee), fullback Le’Ron McClain (right shoulder) and tight end Todd Heap (shoulder) participated fully and are all listed as probable.
The Broncos ruled out running back Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) and fullback Spenser Larsen (ankle). Laurence Maroney is expected to start with Correll Buckhalter working in behind him.
Starting cornerback Andre Goodman (quadriceps) and linebacker Wesley Woodyard (hamstring) are questionable and were limited again. Nose guard Jamal Williams was removed from the injury report after missing practice Thursday for non-injury related reasons.
GAITHER UPDATE: The Ravens’ patience is wearing thin waiting for offensive tackle Jared Gaither to return from a thoracic disc injury in his upper back. According to Harbaugh, the Ravens are still waiting for medical information from Dr. Robert Watkins, a California back specialist.
According to Gaither, Watkins hasn’t cleared him medically.
It’s unclear why any information from Gaither’s latest second opinion with Watkins in Los Angeles earlier this week wouldn’t be communicated to the Ravens.
"It’s tough because it’s just frustrating for everybody," Harbaugh said. "Frustrating for us, frustrating for Jared, frustrating for [trainer] Bill [Tessendorf] and the guys who are trying to do the training because they’ve been pushing this thing hard based on the protocol since the first time that they had an issue, and nothing is making it better in Jared’s mind as far as how it feels, which is tough.
"There’s something going on there. We haven’t heard yet from Dr. Watkins here going onto the practice field. So, I don’t really know. So to comment on it wouldn’t be right. So, hopefully, there’s some good news in terms of knowing what we can do to make it better. Maybe we’ve got it now, but as of before practice, he hadn’t contacted Bill T. or our doctors yet."
QUICK HITS: Harbaugh spent several minutes chatting with former majority owner Art Modell after practice. "Art Modell is obviously just a great man, and I had a chance to spend some time with him," Harbaugh said. "It’s always a pleasure, and you know, Art comes out here probably at least once a week, sometimes every day. He’s just a big part of what we’re doing, so we’re appreciative of that." …The Ravens plan to wear pink cleats, pink chin straps and pink towels to raise awareness about breast cancer this week. Last week, the Ravens didn’t wear any pink against the Steelers. "In the past, shoe companies kind of pick and choose who they give the shoes to, and what ends up happening is, you’ve got some guys get to wear the shoes and some guys don’t," Harbaugh said. "We talked to our team about it during training camp. ‘Is that an issue? Is that a problem?’ The idea was basically, why don’t we just take the shoes and make sure everybody wears them, and you can do that for one game. So we’ll make a strong statement in one game – as a team, everybody together – for the cause, which is a very worthy cause and which we believe in. And we’ll all be doing it. That will be our statement rather than piece-mealing it one week to the next with just a few guys that are selected." … Harbaugh said he still plans to honor his lost bet to rookie tight end Ed Dickson on the Stanford-Oregon game by wearing some Ducks gear. Harbaugh’s brother, Jim Harbaugh, coaches Stanford. And Dickson is a former Oregon standout. "He says it’s on order," Harbaugh said. "I can’t imagine what this jersey’s going to look like." Dickson said he’s providing Harbaugh a special T-shirt that should arrive today. "It’s a shirt that says ‘I Love My Ducks’ on the front," Dickson said. "That’s actually a theme that’s been running through Eugene, Oregon since last year, since the Rose Bowl time. I’ll make sure he has it on Wednesday and you guys will be ready for it. He’s a man of his word, and he’s going to wear the shirt." Added Harbaugh: "I’m not wearing it during the game, I don’t think." Harbaugh paid his cash bet to defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, another Oregon alum.