Ravens may play it safe as caution signs flash

To avoid injury, R. Lewis, Ogden might sit out tonight vs. 'Skins

September 01, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Survival will be the keynote as the Ravens wrap up the preseason tonight against the Washington Redskins.

For the backups, it's about making the team. For the starters, it's about making it to the regular season healthy.

"I hate this time of year," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I hate the last preseason game. I hate anything that gets between me and the regular season."

If the Ravens needed a reminder about how the preseason finale can affect the regular season, they only have to think back to last season. All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden sprained his knee in the last meaningless game that year and missed the season opener.

To play it safe, the Ravens might not play Ogden or linebacker Ray Lewis tonight.

"You can't play this game afraid," Billick said, "but you have to be prudent about what you want to get done."

Before the preseason ends, the Ravens (1-2) want to get the first hits out of the way for two key starters on offense, running back Jamal Lewis and tight end Todd Heap.

Lewis, who sat out last week's game with a bone spur in his right foot, has cut well in practice and has shown good bursts of speed. He is scheduled for eight to 10 plays and about four carries.

"Right now, it's just a matter of working through the pain," Billick said. "The way he came back from Monday's practice - the pop and the speed he had - was very good."

The return of Heap provides hope for a struggling passing attack. Heap, who had offseason surgeries on his shoulder and ankle, is expected to play less than a quarter.

"I'm not even thinking about being careful out there," Heap said. "Once I get out on the field, the only thing that is going to be going through my head is the plays and what I need to do."

After the starters are pulled in the first quarter, the Ravens will turn their attention to the players who will finalize their 53-man roster. With the Ravens having to make their last major cutdown by Saturday night, they have essentially 14 players on the bubble vying for four spots.

Here's how the roster is shaping up:

The Ravens probably won't use a spot for a third quarterback. Derek Anderson, a sixth-round draft pick, is expected to be placed on the practice squad.

Barring a major surprise, guard-center Jason Brown, a fourth-round pick, will take one of the final spots as the team's ninth offensive lineman. Reserve center Thatcher Szalay is also in the mix.

The Ravens likely will keep a fifth running back. Justin Green, who can play tailback and fullback, seems to have the edge over Tellis Redmon.

Another spot has been reserved for an eighth defensive back. Although it could be given to one of four players (Zach Norton, Jamaine Winborne, Calvin Carlyle or B.J. Ward), the Ravens might end up signing someone let go by another team to fill the void.

The last opening is up for grabs. It could be given to hard-hitting linebacker Mike Smith, promising tight end Trent Smith or disappointing receiver Devard Darling.

Trent Smith admitted being a long shot because the Ravens are already keeping four tight ends. But Darling, a third-round pick from a year ago, doesn't know what to expect.

"I approach every game the same way: just go out and try to improve," Darling said. "That's all I can control."

Beyond these players on the bubble, this meeting between local rivals - the Redskins' first game in Baltimore since 1981 - is short on significance.

"It is a big game for the fans and we respect that," Billick said. "[But] depending on what happens in the first week of the season, nobody is going to give a flip about what happens Thursday night - both with them and for us. In the future, maybe the powers that be can schedule that a little bit earlier. I think we'd get more out of it."

NOTES: Cornerback Samari Rolle (knee) and nickel back Deion Sanders (hamstring) will not play. Dale Carter will replace Rolle in the starting lineup. ... Free safety Ed Reed, whose number was retired at his suburban New Orleans high school last Thursday, said his relatives were affected by Hurricane Katrina, but no one was hurt. "Being away from home, it makes it hard," Reed said. "But at the same time, it's a blessing that I can be here and my family can get away." ... The Colts have reached an agreement with free-agent defensive tackle Corey Simon, according to ESPN.com. The Ravens were among a handful of teams interested in the six-year veteran. It was believed that Simon was looking for a contract that included more than a $10 million in signing bonus.

Ravens tonight

Preseason matchup: Washington Redskins (1-2) at Ravens (1-2)

Time: 8

TV/Radio: Chs. 45, 9, Comcast SportsNet/1300 AM, 102.7 FM, 1430 AM, 106.7 FM

Line: Ravens by 5

Roster outlook

The Ravens must trim their 70-man roster to 53 by Saturday night. Heading into tonight's preseason finale, it's believed that 49 spots have been locked up.

Offense

Pos. In .............................................................. Bubble .............. Long shot

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