McNair might have to limit practice work

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

QB still likely to start Sunday, but weekly routine may change to avoid aggravating hand injury

December 19, 2006|By Jamison Hensley and Edward Lee | Jamison Hensley and Edward Lee,Sun reporters

Steve McNair is still expected to be ready for Sunday's game in Pittsburgh, but the Ravens' starting quarterback might have to change his practice routine this week.

McNair left Sunday's 27-17 win over the Browns after the Ravens' second series when his throwing hand was stepped on by 254-pound Cleveland linebacker Andra Davis.

After taking snaps on the sideline during the game, McNair noticed that a cut on his hand had become irritated.

Because the Ravens don't want his hand injury to worsen, they could limit McNair's work with the offense or give him more snaps in the shotgun formation.

"I'll have to see exactly how it feels on Wednesday," coach Brian Billick said about how he will handle McNair this week. "Obviously, I don't want to beat on it anymore [with snaps from center]."

Billick said he did not consider putting McNair back in for backup Kyle Boller during the game, even when the Browns tied the game at 17 in the third quarter.

"Sixty snaps of that [center-to-quarterback exchange] the whole game would do nothing but irritate that," Billick said. "I don't know ... long-term - meaning next week and the week after next - if that would have been in our best interest."

Billick agreed with McNair's assessment that the 12-year veteran could have returned to the game Sunday.

"Steve was certainly ready to go back in should something have happened to Kyle, so that was a comfort zone," Billick said. "It was my call. [McNair] was ready to go, but I thought it was the prudent thing to do - and now I'm glad we did."

Sacks are piling up

With one franchise record accomplished, the Ravens' defense is poised to achieve an NFL first.

The Ravens could become the first team in NFL history to have four players with 10 sacks each. Defensive end Trevor Pryce sets the pace with 12 sacks, but linebackers Adalius Thomas (10 sacks), Bart Scott (9 1/2 ) and Terrell Suggs (eight) aren't far behind. The NFL started keeping track of sacks in 1982.

The 2000 New Orleans Saints recently came close to doing it with defensive tackle La'Roi Glover (17), defensive end Joe Johnson (12), defensive end Darren Howard (11) and linebacker Keith Mitchell (6 1/2 ).

"[Suggs] and I are going to have to step up our games," Scott joked after the Ravens' victory over the Browns.

The defense set a franchise mark when the unit registered six sacks against Cleveland, improving its season total to 52, breaking the record of 49 set in 1999. The NFL record for sacks is 72, set by the 1984 Chicago Bears.

No worries yet

Billick didn't seem too concerned yesterday about an injury list that could include left tackle Jonathan Ogden (hyperextended toe), tight end Todd Heap (thigh bruise), and cornerbacks Samari Rolle (left shoulder sprain and stinger) and Corey Ivy (concussion) for Sunday's road game against the revived Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7).

"We've got a lot of guys that we're going to have to nurse through the week," Billick said. " ... Right now, I'm not aware of anybody that would be definitively ruled out. To what degree they'll be doubtful, questionable or probable, we'll wait until Wednesday. But we're in pretty good shape."

Pro Bowl word today

Pro Bowl invitations will be announced on the NFL Network today at 4 p.m. Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said the league's competition committee chose to depart from its usual announcement on Wednesdays to avoid becoming a distraction during practice.

Billick seemed to be in favor of the change.

"Yeah, you worry about it [being a distraction]," he said. "I shouldn't, but I do worry about that because inevitably there's great exhilaration if you've made it. There's great disappointment if you're kind of on that edge and you were looking forward to it. I probably worry about it too much. I can't say there's anything tangible that I've seen [in] practice one way or the other."

Boller to Mughelli

Fullback Ovie Mughelli's second career touchdown reception - a 9-yard pass in the right flat from Boller in the second quarter Sunday - was probably a surprise to everyone but the two participants.

Mughelli, who now has career highs in receptions (15) and yards (120) for a season, said the two worked on that play during practice last week.

"It's funny because the day we were practicing it, Kyle was throwing me the ball, and Kyle ended up being the one who threw me the ball this game," Mughelli said. "I actually dove for [the end zone] during practice, and I ended up having to dive for it again during the game. So it worked out perfectly."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com edward.lee@baltsun.com

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