R. Lewis appears closer to returning for Steelers game

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

After missing two games, linebacker moving better

Wilcox a concern

November 21, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun Reporter

Ray Lewis appears closer to ending his two-game absence and playing in the Ravens' meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

The seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker sat out Sunday's 24-10 throttling of the Atlanta Falcons after undergoing minor surgery Thursday to drain blood from his bruised back.

But Ravens coach Brian Billick said he is hopeful that Lewis will play for the first time since getting hurt in a collision with free safety Ed Reed on Nov. 5.

"He seems to be moving around very, very well, and the things that they have done to alleviate that pressure, he's just moving a lot better," Billick said. "We'll find out on Wednesday, but right now, I'm fairly optimistic."

The Ravens' most significant worry is the pulled right hamstring of tight end Daniel Wilcox, who did not return after leaving Sunday's game in the third quarter.

"He's probably right now the biggest concern of anybody on the list," Billick said. "We have the normal bumps and bruises, but that hamstring right now would be our biggest concern."

If Wilcox can't play against the rival Steelers, rookie Quinn Sypniewski's role could be expanded.

Right guard Keydrick Vincent's strained groin muscle is still mending, and his status for Sunday is also uncertain. But Billick was encouraged by the performances of rookie guard Chris Chester and linebackers Jarret Johnson and Dan Cody against Atlanta.

"They have a lot more confidence that they can do it. We have a lot more confidence and can count on that," Billick said. "That's huge, and that will pay a dividend in December and hopefully in January because you're going to have those inevitable injuries."

Youth served on line

The presence of Jason Brown and Chester at left and right guard, respectively, didn't seem to hurt the Ravens against the Falcons, who surrendered three rushing touchdowns to running back Jamal Lewis and sacked quarterback Steve McNair just twice.

Brown has started the past six games for Edwin Mulitalo (injured reserve - torn triceps). Chester, the team's second-round draft pick in April, made his first career start Sunday.

Both began the season as backups. But neither player would use age or inexperience as an excuse.

"We're not veteran guards, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to just come off and hit the guy right in front of you," Brown said. "That's what we did, we had a lot of success behind it, and hopefully, we'll continue to do it."

Saluting the Steelers

Every week, the Ravens' personnel department assesses the team's upcoming opponent and ranks its players.

Although Pittsburgh, the defending Super Bowl champion, is 4-6 and third in the AFC North, Billick said the Steelers - who rank fifth in the NFL in offense and 12th in defense - would not be overlooked.

"Record notwithstanding, they are as good a team as we have faced," he said. "I'm just going off of the personnel rankings. ... This is the best personnel, this is the best team we've faced all year long. They're healthy, they've got strengths across the board. This is going to be a heck of a game on Sunday."

No-scalping zone

In what has become an annual plea from Billick, the coach requested that Ravens fans keep their tickets so they don't end up in the hands of Steelers fans.

Thousands of Pittsburgh loyalists attended the most recent meeting between these two teams, last November, but left unhappy after the Ravens won in overtime, 16-13. Billick would like to keep the number of Steelers fans to a minimum.

"Fans that are going to sell their tickets this week, to the other fans around them, this is pretty much a declaration," he said. "You've got to respect them for doing it, but at 8-2 and the way we're going right now, if the guy next to you has doled his ticket out to some Steelers fan, he's pretty much showed his colors."

Extra points

With former Ravens assistants Mike Nolan and Jack Del Rio wearing suits for their respective teams' contests, Billick said such attire is not in the works for him. "They're a lot better looking than I am. I'm somewhere between them and [New England Patriots coach] Bill Belichick. Whatever [equipment manager] Ed [Carroll] puts in the locker room, I'll go with that." ... Despite sacking Falcons quarterback Michael Vick twice Sunday, defensive end Trevor Pryce said he's glad that the Ravens aren't in the NFC South. "Quote me: I never want to play Michael Vick again," Pryce said. "Especially when he's on fire and does the things that he can, no mas. Give me Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. I don't want any part of Michael Vick."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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