In new digs, Stewart may get shot at old team

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Ravens dropping hints that QB could play some tomorrow vs. Steelers

Ravens notebook

September 18, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Are the Ravens teasing or scheming?

There have been subtle hints this week that backup quarterback Kordell Stewart might get a chance to make something happen against the Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow.

Stewart, who became one of the league's best multi-dimensional threats in his eight years with the Steelers, will face his old team for the first time since he left after the 2002 season.

If the Ravens use Stewart, the plays will probably be specifically designed for him, possibly near the end zone.

"Slash is coming back, so get ready," Stewart said smiling.

Chances are, Stewart was joking about re-creating the part-time receiver, part-time running back persona he created as a rookie with the Steelers in 1996, but he could always be used as a situational quarterback, one that provides more mobility and elusiveness than Kyle Boller.

Stewart, though, is not harboring any hard feelings toward his old team. There were much chronicled good and bad times while Stewart was quarterback of the Steelers, but he prefers to focus on the present.

"I'm with this team, and my mind-set is doing the things we are trying to do on this team to get us where we want to go," Stewart said. "As far as the emotional ties, that came to a halt a year ago once I left.

"I've seen quite a few of the [Steelers]. It's going to be different seeing them on the opposite of the field. It's going to be fun and exciting to play against them."

That may have been a slip by Stewart, who ran a few specialty plays as the backup quarterback for the first five games of the 2000 season. He was promoted to starter for the final 11 games.

"As we saw in the last preseason game, the focus is there," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Stewart. "You see that with veterans a lot, particularly now when it's a real honing of the focus, and if need be, he's ready to step in and perform for us."

Wright's on schedule

Quarterback Anthony Wright started throwing off to the side of practice earlier this week, and his return after the sixth week of the season remains on schedule.

Wright will throw every other day to build the strength up in his surgically repaired shoulder.

"I can tell the velocity is coming back, and I'm working hard to get the strength back," Wright said. "That's the only thing I need to get back now. The ligaments are good. I just need to get back in the rhythm of throwing again."

Will Walls play?

Cornerback Raymond Walls played about 15 snaps against the Cleveland Browns but might not play against the Steelers.

Walls is in the rare position of being the top cornerback if anything happens to starters Chris McAlister and Gary Baxter, but he is not part of the Ravens' nickel (five) or dime (six) defensive back package. Walls filled in temporarily for Baxter, who hurt his hand, in the first half against Cleveland.

Deion Sanders is the nickel back, but the team wants to limit him to about 25 snaps a game. So unless someone gets hurt, Walls remains on the bench.

McAlister vs. Burress

For the first time in years, McAlister was not hit with a barrage of questions this week regarding his impending matchup with the Steelers' Plaxico Burress. In a couple of games earlier in McAlister's career, the lanky Burress got the best of him, but the Pro Bowl cornerback shut Burress down in the teams' previous game.

Burress had one catch for 13 yards in the regular-season finale, dispelling the idea that Burress holds a mental advantage.

"We've always clashed in the past, and it's always been a great battle," McAlister said.

Injury update

Left tackle Jonathan Ogden practiced for the third time this week and appears set to start. Ogden, who was upgraded to probable but wore a brace in practice, missed last week's opener with a sprained left knee. Baxter (hand) and end Jarret Johnson (elbow) also practiced and are probable. Receiver Travis Taylor (groin) did not practice and is officially out for the game.

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