Ravens hopeful starters' injuries will heal in time for training camp

Five have had surgery since end of last season

Maese, Carlisle OK deals

Pro Football

March 16, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Todd Heap walked the halls of the practice complex recently with a protective boot covering his right ankle, a sign that this offseason hasn't gone perfectly for every Raven.

The Pro Bowl tight end is one of five starters who have had surgery since the end of the regular season, joining running back Jamal Lewis (ankle), linebacker Peter Boulware (toe), cornerback Chris McAlister (toe) and offensive tackle Orlando Brown (knee).

Ravens officials said they believe all these players should be able to suit up when the team heads to McDaniel College at the end of July.

"Our goal is to have them ready for training camp," Ravens trainer Bill Tessendorf said, knocking on the side of his wooden desk. "So far, there have been no setbacks, and that's what we hope to continue."

In the second game last season, Heap tore a ligament on the inside part of his ankle, an injury more common to soccer players. After missing 10 of the final 14 games, he underwent reconstructive surgery.

Heap's cast was taken off a week ago, and he is scheduled to remain in a boot for the next four weeks. His participation in the full-team minicamps in June likely will be limited to light running.

"We fixed some looseness in his ankle that had been there since maybe his rookie year," Tessendorf said. "It probably hasn't been this secure since high school."

Tessendorf has not been able to monitor Lewis as closely.

The former NFL Offensive Player of the Year is serving his four-month drug sentence at a federal prison in Pensacola, Fla. Lewis' ankle has been in an air cast for the past week after his protective boot was removed.

Tessendorf said he has talked more frequently with the physical therapist than Lewis but is looking to schedule a trip there. The Ravens have contacted prison authorities about allowing Tessendorf to examine Lewis' ankle rather than just communicating behind glass like most visitors.

"We're kind of aware of the progress indirectly," Tessendorf said. "To the best of my knowledge, everything looks well."

Tessendorf traveled yesterday to meet with Boulware, who is rehabilitating his toe at his Tallahassee, Fla., home. Boulware, who missed all of last season, is expected to start running this week.

It is too early to gauge where Boulware fits in the team's defensive plans.

In a scheme that will lean more toward a 4-3 alignment (four linemen and three linebackers), the Ravens presumably will move Terrell Suggs from linebacker to defensive end and start Ray Lewis at middle linebacker, T.J. Slaughter (who is expected to re-sign) at weak-side linebacker and either Boulware or Adalius Thomas at strong-side linebacker.

Meanwhile, the Ravens are more certain about Brown's place on the offensive line. They didn't pursue a top free-agent tackle because they were confident in how Brown's knees would hold up as a starter.

"He had a significant injury, but the doctor thought that with proper rehab and conditioning that he's probably got a year or two more on his career," Tessendorf said.

The only other starter to have surgery is McAlister, who is progressing after having a minor operation on his toe, an injury that prevented him from playing in the Pro Bowl.

An injury also forced Ray Lewis out of the all-star event. There was talk leading up to that game that the linebacker would need surgery on his severely sprained wrist.

"If he had played in the Pro Bowl, it could have turned into a surgical injury," Tessendorf said. "That's the reason he did not play."

NOTES: The Ravens reached two-year deals with long snapper Joe Maese and backup offensive lineman Cooper Carlisle. Maese's agreement is worth $1.1 million and includes a $100,000 signing bonus. Carlisle, who started the final five games for the Denver Broncos, signed for a little more than $2 million with a $500,000 bonus. That means the Ravens have agreed on deals with five players in the first 13 days of free agency.

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