Gregg, Sanders likely back

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Nose guard, nickel back are expected to practice, could be ready for Chiefs

Pro Football

September 28, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Ravens nose guard Kelly Gregg and nickel back Deion Sanders will likely return to practice this week, meaning both could play Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Both players missed Sunday's win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and neither practiced last week. Gregg said his knee is feeling better, and he expects to be on the practice field Thursday. Sanders hurt his hamstring last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Gregg feels he needs to practice in order to play.

"Going into the Cleveland game, I didn't practice that much, and I went out there and tried to play, and it just wasn't having it," he said. "My goal is to try and practice and see how it feels."

Maake Kemoeatu and Ray Walls played for Gregg and Sanders, respectively, and both had solid games. Kemoeatu had four tackles and a number of pressures on Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.

The Chiefs, though, feature a mammoth offensive line that includes guard Will Shields - who has been to nine straight Pro Bowls - making Gregg's return key.

In last year's game, Gregg and the Ravens' defense held the Chiefs to 129 rushing yards.

"There is a good chance for Kelly Gregg to come back," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We've got an extra couple of days to see how that is going to pan out for him. Deion feels like he is moving along pretty good."

The Ravens also expect to have center Mike Flynn return to practice, although it is unlikely he will be cleared to play. Flynn suffered a broken collarbone during the preseason.

Receiver Travis Taylor (groin) is not expected to play.

Sams on offense

Not one for telling sideline stories, Billick relaxed enough to convey how return specialist B.J. Sams nearly missed his big chance to play on offense.

"We had a five-play package for him, a certain personnel grouping called `Stallion' that he's in," Billick said. "First time up, Coach [Matt] Simon is yelling `Stallion,' and there's B.J. standing right next to me. I had to tell him, `Son, I think you belong in there.' So you've got to remind yourself with these young guys that it gets big for them."

Sams went on to rush for 8 yards on an end around to convert a first down against the Bengals. Sams also had a 63-yard punt return.

Starters fill in

With backups T.J. Slaughter and Ovie Mughelli sidelined in the first half with hamstring injuries, a few of the starters had to fulfill their respective roles on the coverage teams.

"Chris McAlister, Ed Reed, Chester Taylor, Adalius Thomas, Alan Ricard, Ed Hartwell all had to step up and take special teams snaps as well," Billick said. "It was really an excellent special teams day, keeping an explosive special teams unit in check and not giving them field position that way."

Billick may want to consider using that group for a second straight week. The Chiefs feature return specialist Dante Hall, widely considered the most dangerous returner in the league. Heading into Sunday's game, Hall was leading the AFC with a 15-yard punt return average.

Big penalties down

Billick was pleased with the Ravens' penalty situation against Cincinnati, although the team was whistled for just one less than the 10 the week before against the Steelers.

The improvement? Only two of the penalties were 15-yard infractions, compared to six the previous week.

"The penalties we had, although too many, there was enough room for me to still be mad at the officials and not the player," Billick said. "Sometimes the player is real clear-cut: `You did this, and that is wrong.' But I think they did step up to that challenge."

The most costly, at least financially, may have come on Ray Lewis' hit to Palmer late in the third quarter. The referee said Lewis launched himself helmet first, into Palmer, which often draws a fine from the league.

"I don't know," Billick said of whether he thinks Lewis will be fined. "I only saw a glimpse of it on the monitor when they played it back. I'll leave it to the league to make those determinations."

End zone

Right tackle Orlando Brown (offense), Reed (defense) and Chester Taylor (special teams) received game balls. Taylor had two tackles inside the 20-yard line. Reed had two interceptions and 90 return yards. As for Brown, "Offensively, he had a near perfect, mistake-free game," Billick said.

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