Ravens tight end Eric Green held out his scarred, surgically repaired left pinkie, joked about his misfortune, then declared himself fit for battle against the San Diego Chargers.
Green, who missed Sunday's Oakland Raiders game with a dislocated finger -- one game after missing two games with a ruptured air sac in his chest -- practiced without pain yesterday.
Green was not even listed on the team's injury report.
"A bump in the road," said Green, who wore a soft cast. "It felt good today. I caught the ball pretty well. I'm ready to go."
The Ravens welcome Green's return. For starters, they will need his 285-pound presence to help generate a ground game against the NFL's top-ranked defense against the run.
"Having Eric is like having an extra lineman," left tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "We're going to go after them. We're not scared of their ranking. We're going to make them prove it to us."
Green, who has caught 18 passes for 283 yards, is just happy to be over his second freak injury of a strange season.
"Last week [when he had surgery], I kept asking myself why is this happening to me?" said Green, who injured the pinkie by tangling it in a teammate's jersey during a no-pads blocking drill Nov. 4. "But I've realized it's something I can't control. I call it misfortune. If I had bad luck, I wouldn't be in the NFL right now."
Chargers quarterback Craig Whelihan's prediction of a win Sunday was brushed off by several Ravens, but at least a few seemed offended -- including one Whelihan is bound to run into Sunday.
"He's guaranteeing a win. He shouldn't be making comments like that, because those comments can come back and haunt you," said defensive end Michael McCrary, whose 12 1/2 sacks lead the AFC. "Maybe he'll just have to learn the hard way."
Added linebacker Ray Lewis: "I guess we'll have to go out and make a liar of him."
Cornerback Rod Woodson said Whelihan is entitled to his opinion.
"What's his name -- Wilhelm?" Woodson said, smiling. "They're what -- 3-6? We're 3-6. If he feels that good about his team. "
Means to an end
Another challenge awaiting the Ravens' defense is a big one. Literally.
His name is Natrone Means.
At 5 feet 10, 245 pounds, Means represents the heart and soul of the San Diego offense. A six-year veteran running back out of North Carolina, Means is basically the lone dimension in the Chargers' one-dimensional attack.
Picture a player resembling a bowling ball, with the ability to roll over tacklers. Then, picture a player with light feet that allow him to leave a tackler grasping for air. Put the two together, and you have Means.
"The offensive line [in San Diego] is committed to running the ball, and they do a good job blocking for Natrone," Ravens defensive tackle James Jones said. "He's a big back who can make a lot of people miss. He can break off that big run for 40 or 50 yards, which is rare for such a big back. It's important that we don't let him get started [at the line of scrimmage]."
Having signed Means to a long-term contract i the off-season, the Chargers are getting their money's worth out of the big guy, who has done everything possible to offset the league's 29th-ranked, mistake-prone passing game.
Means ranks fifth in the NFL and second in the AFC with 878 rushing yards, second only to Denver's Terrell Davis. Throw in his 91 yards on 16 receptions, and Means ranks fourth in the AFC with 969 yards of total offense.
The Ravens will be hard-pressed to keep Means from bouncing to the outside. It's something Oakland's Napoleon Kaufman did effectively several times.
"He's a good, hard, heavy, powerful runner. He's similar to [Pittsburgh's Jerome] Bettis," McCrary said. "You've got to hit him before he gets his pads turned upfield. It's important for the defensive line to be extremely disciplined against him."
McCrary, who set a team record with four sacks in Sunday's 13-10 victory, was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
In week two, Woodson won the award.
McCrary collected six tackles and a forced fumble against Oakland. In addition to his sacks, McCrary ranks third on the team in total (57) and solo tackles (39).
"Mike is something special," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "You talk about all-out effort. You talk about sacrificing your body. He does that every day."
McCrary, listed as questionable for the Chargers game with a knee injury, practiced yesterday.
Ravens family grows
Fullback Roosevelt Potts announced the birth of his first son, Roosevelt Jr. He arrived on Tuesday morning, measuring 21 inches and weighing 6 pounds, 7 ounces. Potts and his wife, Tanisha, also have two daughters.
"He knows when football season is, because he was born on my day off," Potts said of his newborn. "He's a good boy."
Pub Date: 11/12/98