Ravens are on receiving end of some players upon return

Flynn, receivers Taylor, Heap closer to health after bye rest

October 18, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

As the Ravens christened their new training complex with its first practice yesterday, most of the attention centered on the injured offensive players who were able to participate in it.

Receiver Travis Taylor worked out with the starters for the first time since aggravating his groin injury in the opener. Center Mike Flynn, who has yet to play this season, went through drills before undergoing an X-ray today on his collarbone.

And tight end Todd Heap ran on his sprained right ankle yet seems doubtful for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.

"Todd is the one I'm least optimistic about, but I don't know that yet," said coach Brian Billick, standing in front of the new $31 million facility. "Our plan is to run him like we did today and see how he comes out Wednesday."

Heap, the team's leading receiver the past two seasons, hurt his ankle in the second game of the season and has yet to return to practice. He watched the beginning of yesterday's one-hour workout while riding a stationary bike in the state-of-the-art weight room, which has windows that look out onto the fields.

The two-time Pro Bowl player ran all week - the first time he has done so since injuring the lower part of his ankle - and did the same yesterday. Asked if he thought he would practice this week, Heap said, "I don't know."

The Ravens (3-2), who are 1 1/2 games back of the AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers, reconvened from their bye with similar questions surrounding the receiving corps of the NFL's worst-ranked passing attack.

If fully recovered, Taylor presumably would return to the starting lineup, especially because he is the best blocker among the receivers.

The Ravens would then have to decide whether to keep Kevin Johnson or Randy Hymes as the other starter. Ravens officials said a starter wouldn't be determined until the end of the week.

Meanwhile, the Ravens have expressed interest in signing receiver Patrick Johnson, a Ravens' second-round pick in 1998 who was released off the Cincinnati Bengals' injured reserve list on Oct. 9. Johnson, who caught 58 passes in four seasons with the Ravens (1998 to 2001), broke bones in his hand on Aug. 28 and would probably be brought in for more experienced depth.

"Like Brian says, we're never going to be concerned about having too many good receivers," Taylor said. "I'm not worried about that. Whenever I get my chance to get in there and make a play, that's what I'm going to do."

Taylor said the players were unaware who would be the starting receivers Sunday.

"We haven't talked about that," Taylor said. "We're just going to see how it goes."

In taking over for the injured Taylor, Hymes has led the Ravens in receptions (16) and has accounted for one-third of the team's passing yards.

By comparison, Kevin Johnson has had an inauspicious start to his Ravens career.

Traded from Jacksonville for a fourth-round pick on draft weekend, Johnson had averaged nearly four catches a game in his first five NFL seasons. Through his first five games with the Ravens, he has 10 receptions and is on pace for a career-low 32 catches.

"I've had 80-plus-catch seasons, I've had 1,000 yards in a season and I've had nine-touchdown seasons. But I'm all about winning a Super Bowl," said Johnson, who has never caught fewer than 57 passes in a season.

"Obviously, we want to catch the ball and have more production, but if this [a run-oriented offense] is what it takes for us to get to the Super Bowl, I'm all for it."

Johnson said his subpar numbers are not a result of his being open and quarterback Kyle Boller's not finding him.

"It's not on one guy here," Johnson said. "It's a relatively collective effort. We can't put all the blame on the quarterback. We have to realize that there's going to come a day when we have to bring more to the table."

The offensive line could be welcoming back a starter, too.

Flynn, who broke his collarbone in training camp, could be cleared for practices this week. The four-year starter has not engaged in much contact to test the collarbone except for hitting the blocking sled.

"It felt good today," Flynn said. "My legs feel good running around. But it has to do with the X-ray. I'm hoping I can start practicing [today]."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens (3-2) vs. Buffalo Bills (1-4)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 6

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