While a number of defensive tackles must dread facing New York Jets center Kevin Mawae, the Ravens' Maake Kemoeatu welcomes the challenge.
Of course, Kemoeatu has never faced Mawae, which could be the reason he is welcoming the challenge.
"I always like to see how far I'll get against a really good center like Kevin," Kemoeatu said. "Growing up, I used to look up to him because he's from Hawaii. Now I get to line up against him on the other side of the ball. Being that he's a Pro Bowl player, I'd like to see where I'm at -- if I'm good against him, am I average against him or am I no good against him."
Kemoeatu and starting nose tackle Kelly Gregg will try to tie up Mawae at the line of scrimmage and not allow the five-time Pro Bowl player a chance to reach Ray Lewis and others on the second and third level of the defense.
Mawae, with his combination of athleticism and use of leverage, probably pulls (leaves his spot and serves as a lead blocker down field) more than any other center in the league.
"I would say next to Chad [Pennington, quarterback], Kevin is our most valuable player," said Jets running back Curtis Martin. "He's the quarterback of our offensive line. He's the one that makes it go. He is the one that makes Chad's job easier, as well as mine.
"When you have those dominating linebackers, Kevin has the feet, the quickness, the speed to run with them and compete with them. He's more like a fullback or a tight end playing center."
Mawae has started 104 consecutive games, the longest streak among centers in the league. He usually leaves defensive players amazed at how someone who is 6 feet 4, 289 pounds can get down the field so fast.
The Jets are fourth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 144.6 yards a game.
"Whenever you see a center pulling, you know he's an incredible athlete," Ravens end Marques Douglas said. "Everything starts with him."
Ravens tight end Todd Heap will not play Sunday, his injured ankle keeping him out for a seventh consecutive game.
Left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (hamstring) is listed as questionable and has not ruled himself out of the game. Ogden did not practice yesterday and likely will need to practice by Saturday to play.
"We'll see," Ogden said. "I'm getting better."
Nickel back Deion Sanders (toe) did not practice and is questionable.
More Fassel sightings
Ravens senior offensive consultant Jim Fassel's attendance has increased at practice and games the past couple of weeks, but coach Brian Billick said that had been the plan all along.
The Ravens are last in the league in total offense and passing. Fassel is considered one of the game's best offensive minds.
"It's what we'd had envisioned," Billick said. "Now that his son John is done with his season at New Mexico Highlands, the plan was for Jim to be around a little bit more, to be around the games a little bit more and maybe at practice.
"Don't read too much into it."
With Dave Wannstedt out as coach of the Miami Dolphins, Fassel's name may come up in the coming weeks as a possible replacement. Fassel's contract with the Ravens ends Dec. 31.
"Jim would be a fit for anybody who is wise enough to hire him," Billick said.
While discussing the Jets' Martin, Billick wondered why the Pro Bowl running back is rarely mentioned among the elite at his position, then did something that furthered his premise.
"It's been commented on many times before, Jamie Martin doesn't get the due that he deserves," Billick said of Curtis Martin. "He's an outstanding back, a class act. For whatever reason, he's not mentioned when you talk about the great backs in the league, and he ought to be."
Actually, Jamie Martin was a backup quarterback for the St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars but is now out of the league.
"Jamie Martin is a class guy, too," Billick said when told of the gaffe.
Running back Jamal Lewis softened his stance during his weekly interview session yesterday, saying his goal is for the offense to achieve balance.
Lewis had said he felt the team did not use him enough in the Ravens' win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night, speaking out for a rare time about his lack of carries in the aftermath of the game.
"It was just a whole misunderstanding," Lewis said. "At a down time in the game, every good playmaker feels like if the ball was in his hands, they can make something happen."
The Ravens signed receiver Michael Jennings to the practice squad and cut receiver Freddie Milons. Jennings was a three-time letter-winner in track and field at Florida State but did not play football there.
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