Health worrisome issue as 7 go on injury report

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Heap's doubtful status crimps 2-tight-end plans

Pro Football

September 27, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

In trying to rebound from a loss for the first time in close to 11 months, the Ravens find themselves short-handed.

They have a season-high seven players on the injury report for Sunday's game in Denver, one of the hottest teams in the league.

Tight end Todd Heap (ankle) is doubtful, while receiver Jermaine Lewis (leg), end Michael McCrary (knee), receiver Brandon Stokley (knee) and tackle Sammy Williams (knee) are all questionable.

If Heap is unable to play, that will limit what the Ravens can do out of their two-tight-end set.

"We're hoping he can come along," coach Brian Billick said. "We've gotten a lot out of the two-tight-end alignment. And we'll have to move things around to accommodate that if he isn't ready to go."

Lewis missed Sunday's game in Cincinnati after sustaining the injury in practice last week, and said he is not sure whether he will be able to play against the Broncos. He was limited in practice yesterday, while McCrary and Heap did not work out. All of the other injured players were able to practice.

"It's been getting better day to day, so we'll see how it's progressing," Lewis said.

Williams hurt his knee in the second quarter of the Bengals game and was replaced by Erik Williams. Billick is optimistic he'll have Sammy Williams back for Denver but did not say whether he will start.

Linebacker Brad Jackson (chest) is probable, and Leon Searcy (arm) is out.

Allen: Stay cool

Running back Terry Allen just wants people to be patient with the offense.

And remember last year.

"If you look at it, the later in the year it got, the better the running game was for them last year," Allen said. "People tend to forget about what happened earlier in the season last year, when they had a stretch where they couldn't score a touchdown. You have those bad days, and it takes a while for everybody to jell together."

By everybody, Allen means himself and the offensive line, which has experienced its share of injuries and ineffective play.

As for the offensive-line shuffle, which included a different right-side pairing by the end of the Bengals game (Bennie Anderson and Erik Williams in for Kipp Vickers and Sammy Williams), Allen said, "I can't control any of that. All I can do is try and do my job the best I can. I have confidence in anybody they put up there, that they're going to go out and play hard.

Allen has been the fall guy for many of the problems with the running game.

"Obviously, I get sick and tired of hearing it," said Allen, who has rushed for 98 yards on 37 carries in two games. "Anybody who thinks they can do better, get back there and try it."

Said Billick: "Those that want to say the running game is not going because of Terry Allen are not watching the same guy I am. We have to find an identity on the offensive line."

Kicker's dream

Denver has often been described as a kicker's dream.

Because of the altitude, the ball travels farther than normal, though Ravens kicker Matt Stover and punter Kyle Richardson are containing their enthusiasm.

"I've been there two times before," Stover said. "The thing about Denver, yeah, the altitude can help with the flight of the ball, but you still have to kick the ball straight. As soon as you think it's easy, it's not. Even in indoor stadiums, you stay true to what you do. You don't change anything. You don't let the flight of the ball, if it's traveling further, affect your emotion through the game."

Richardson will be experiencing Denver for the first time.

"I can only speak from what other people are telling me," Richardson said. "It's a six- to seven-yard advantage distance-wise. And I'm sure it's going to affect the hang, for better hang time. But you still have to hit the ball."

Praise for Griese

Though the Broncos are without two key offensive components, running back Terrell Davis and receiver Ed McCaffrey, Billick is impressed with how flawlessly quarterback Brian Griese is running the offense.

"He's just in complete control of the offense," Billick said. "He really has a feel for where everybody is, the timing. When something is not going to work, he knows to get rid of [the ball]."

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