Injuries leave tackle Gaither next in line


Rookie may start vs. Rams

Billick optimistic on progress of Heap, Rolle

Ravens & Nfl

October 09, 2007|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN REPORTER

Jared Gaither may no longer be a project.

Selected by the Ravens in the supplemental draft this summer, the offensive tackle was expected to dive into the playbook and serve as an understudy to Jonathan Ogden and Adam Terry.

But injuries to Ogden and Terry have accelerated Gaither's development to the point where the former University of Maryland player might make his first career start at left tackle against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

"You don't have time for nervousness in this game, baby," Gaither said after the team's 9-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. "If you're nervous, you'll get knocked on your [butt]. So I was ready at any time."

Without disclosing the severity of Terry's left ankle injury, which occurred in the second quarter Sunday, coach Brian Billick said yesterday that Terry's health is the most pressing concern for the coaching and medical staffs.

Ogden, who had been hampered by a hyperextended toe on his left foot for the entire offseason and preseason, hasn't played since spraining the same foot in the season opener Sept. 10. But Billick and offensive line coach Chris Foerster seemed to hint that Ogden might have to suit up against the Rams.

"We'll have to see - again - how J.O. is progressing," Billick said, adding that the team could make a roster move. "That will be a key factor for us as well. See exactly where Adam is at the end of the week, but we'll fill in where we can."

Billick's words might signal the promotion of Mike Kracalik from the practice squad.

If neither Ogden nor Terry can play, Gaither, 21, likely would get the start at left tackle, where his primary responsibility is to protect quarterback Steve McNair's blind side.

It seems like a difficult assignment for the youngest player on the Ravens' roster, but Billick praised Gaither's play Sunday.

"It was good to get Jared Gaither in there," Billick said. "Jared Gaither came in and played very, very well. So it was great to have Jared do that."

Heap, Rolle might return

Billick sounded optimistic that tight end Todd Heap or cornerback Samari Rolle or both might return Sunday.

Heap missed Sunday's victory with a strained hamstring but told Billick that he could've played if it were a playoff game.

"I'm pleased that we didn't have to," Billick said. "I'm pleased that we got out of there with a win without having to press Todd into duty because that doubled the chances of him being healthier and ready to go this weekend."

Rolle has missed the past three games because of illness and complications from medication to treat it, but Billick seemed encouraged about him, too. "He's progressing, and hopefully by the end of the week, we'll know," Billick said.

A first for Figurs

Yamon Figurs got his first taste of lining up with the offense against the 49ers.

Mostly relegated to returning kickoffs and punts during the first four games of his rookie season, Figurs took a backward pass from McNair before losing a yard late in the second quarter.

"I loved it," said Figurs, who said his left shoulder would be fine for the game against the Rams. "It was cool. It was fun to get in the offense and get involved."

No overlooking Rams

It turns out that Billick can do a pretty good Lou Holtz impersonation.

When asked about facing the 0-5 Rams, Billick sounded like the former Notre Dame coach, who had a habit of overinflating weaker opponents.

"This is the absolute biggest challenge we've had to take for all of the reasons you could imagine," Billick said. "First off, they are a very talented team. They're a desperate team right now. They are well-coached. [Coach] Scott Linehan does a great job as does [defensive coordinator] Jim Haslett.

"When you're in this league and you're in that situation, it is a desperate time, and this is as dangerous a circumstance and as dangerous a team as we've played so far."

End zone

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