The last time New Orleans Saints receiver Joe Horn played in Baltimore, he recorded one catch for 17 yards as a relatively unknown reserve for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1999.
Since that year, his last in Kansas City and as a backup, Horn has re-invented himself as one of the most dangerous receivers in the league and will be the Ravens' pass defense's No. 1 priority Sunday. Horn has six catches this season of 40 yards or more.
"Quickness, explosion, the guy is a playmaker," said cornerback Gary Baxter, who likely will be matched against Horn much of the time. "Him and Aaron Brooks do a great job of hooking up on the football field. They are guys that we are going to have to focus on and contain."
Horn is second in the NFC with 1,058 receiving yards, to go along with his 66 receptions and seven touchdowns.
The Ravens usually use Chris McAlister to shadow top-flight receivers, but the cornerback is nursing a sore ankle and a shoulder sprain.
"My ankle is pretty sore but we'll see how it works out by the end of the week," McAlister said. "I'm probable, questionable, however they have me listed."
The Saints also feature two of the fastest receivers in the league in rookie Donte' Stallworth, who has six touchdowns this season, and Michael Lewis, who has three catches of 40 yards or more, to go along with veterans Jerome Pathon and Jake Reed.
"This is another team, how many weeks in a row, that it's a solid quarterback, great running back, dynamic receiver," Billick said. "They've got more than just Joe Horn. Stallworth is really impressive as a rookie. They have a lot of weapons."
McCrary waits on decision
Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary said he will wait until the end of the season before making a decision on whether to retire. McCrary, who has chronically bad knees, was placed on injured reserved Monday.
"The door is not shut yet, but it's closing," said McCrary, a 10-year veteran whose 51 sacks as a Raven are second in franchise history to Peter Boulware's 56. "I'm going to try and seek out a couple of more attempts, looking for that one miracle.
"I've always fought to the end. When you can't go out there and perform to a level you're used to performing at, that's real frustrating. It's something I'm having to deal with. There comes a time for everybody. I haven't given up, and I'm not going to make a decision until after the season. But I'll stay here, support the team, support my [charitable] foundation and support the city."
Guarding his turf
The Ravens put in a new field at the stadium after last week's high school playoff championships, but Billick made his first public plea for a different solution.
Billick suggested a switch to FieldTurf, a popular synthetic grass many teams are considering using. FieldTurf is the playing surface used at Ford Field, an indoor facility in Detroit.
"They laid the sod down," Billick said. "But we need to seriously look at putting FieldTurf in that stadium, given the shading problem we have from mid-November on and the number of different people we have on it.
"The hardest part for my guys is that we go to the stadium each week, we don't know what we're going to play on. That's nobody's fault. Given what we've been playing on and that FieldTurf, I think, unilaterally, people would say FieldTurf's the better choice."
Demps stays course
Safety Will Demps is not fretting over being replaced by Anthony Mitchell for most of the fourth quarter in Sunday's game. He knows why it happens and there will be opportunities to remain in the rotation.
"I didn't see things that I should have," said Demps, who has started 10 straight games. "A lot of things came my way, and I didn't make the plays. I got taken out of the game, and Mitch did a great job. It was the coach's decision.
"I'm kind of searching to make plays. It's a long season, but I'm not going to use that as an excuse. There is a lot of football ahead, so there is no need to push the panic button. I just have to keep working hard."
Saints coach Jim Haslett paid Billick the ultimate professional compliment.
"I think Brian Billick is the best coach in the NFL," Haslett said in a conference call yesterday. "He does a great job, and I think that is why they have a Super Bowl ring. They have a lot of young guys, and you can tell they are well-coached." ...
James Trapp (chest), Chris McAlister (shoulder) and John Jones (knee) all practiced yesterday and are probable for Sunday's game. Chris Redman (back, questionable) also practiced.
Next for Ravens
Matchup:Ravens (6-6) vs. New Orleans Saints (8-4)
When:Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
TV/Radio:Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)
Line:Off the board
SunSpot:For more coverage, visit sunspot.net/ravens