Returning to the challenge

Kicking to Chargers' Sproles means another test for special teams

Ravens Notebook

Ravens Weekend

November 23, 2007|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

A week after facing one of the NFL's best return specialists in the Cleveland Browns' Joshua Cribbs, the Ravens special teams unit will get another test Sunday in the San Diego Chargers' Darren Sproles.

Only Sproles and the Chicago Bears' Devin Hester have returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns this season. Sproles became the ninth player in league history to return a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the same game, a 23-21 win against the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 11.

Ravens special teams players said those credentials won't change their opinion on kicking away from Sproles.

"I don't want [Matt Stover] to kick it out of bounds," linebacker Gary Stills said. "I like the challenge. You saying let's kick it out of bounds is like you saying let's go ahead and give up and not take the challenge. That's not what we're all about as a special teams unit."

Several players pointed out that they have contained the New York Jets' Leon Washington and the Buffalo Bills' Roscoe Parrish and Terrence McGee this season.

"Why avoid kicking the ball?" fullback Justin Green asked rhetorically. "We've got a pretty good special teams unit. We need to go out there and make a play. We don't back down from anybody. That's our mentality, and that's been our mentality since [special teams coach] Frank Gansz [Jr.] has been here. We've just got to go down there and tackle him."

As for the possibility of activating kicker Rhys Lloyd off the practice squad to take advantage of his strong leg, coach Brian Billick seemed noncommittal.

"Would love to," he said. "That would certainly help. Yeah, we'd love to get that up."

Rolle not restricted

A day after cornerback Samari Rolle revealed that he has epilepsy, the Ravens indicated they haven't placed any restrictions on him during games.

"We wouldn't put him out there if there were any limitations on him," Billick said. "We always worry anytime a guy has been dealing with something the entire season. But he seems ready to go, energetic. We feel very good about him."

Boller takes blame

Although Kyle Boller was sacked six times against the Browns, the quarterback said he, not the offensive line, deserved some of the blame for those sacks.

"I missed some hots [hot routes]," Boller said. "I've got to get the ball out of my hand when they're bringing six guys and we have five blockers. At other times, it's just errors in assignments. That's what I'm talking about when I say that we've got to make sure that we're all on the same page and get all the wrinkles ironed out so that those don't happen."

McAlister preparing

Cornerback Chris McAlister missed his second straight practice with a right-knee strain, but that's part of the plan to get him ready to play Sunday.

"It's one of those [routines where he has] minimal activity during the week and see what we can get on Sunday," Billick said.

Tight end Todd Heap (hamstring) didn't practice again, increasing the chances that he will miss Sunday's game. Backup defensive tackle Justin Bannan (ankle) was limited in practice after missing Wednesday's workout.

Sypniewski thrives

With Heap and Daniel Wilcox (sprained toe) battling injuries, No. 3 tight end Quinn Sypniewski has begun to thrive as a starter in four of his past six games.

Sypniewski tied a career high by catching six passes against the Browns for a career-best 53 yards. Four of those receptions were for first downs.

"I think I'm just getting an opportunity, and that's all you can ask for," said Sypniewski, who ranks fourth on the team in receptions (29) and fifth in receiving yards (208). "Any tight end likes to be that safety valve, that safety net for the quarterback. Todd and Danny obviously were that, and I've got to fill that role right now until they come back."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

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