Hurt starters aim to boost defense

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

McAlister, Johnson determined to play

Ravens Notebook

November 29, 2007|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN REPORTER

Cornerback Chris McAlister and linebacker Jarret Johnson vowed yesterday to do their best to be prepared to play in the Ravens' Monday night game against the undefeated New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium.

The secondary would welcome McAlister, who has missed four of the past five games because of a strained right knee, against the Patriots' offense, which is ranked first in the NFL in total yards and passing yards.

"I'm going to push through harder this week than I have in the past just to give me the opportunity to get out there because of what this game means, playing at home and playing against the Patriots, who appear to be the best team in the NFL," McAlister said. "It's always a good thing to be able to go out there and compete against the best."

Johnson said he fractured his right thumb while making a tackle during Sunday's 32-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers. If he plays, Johnson said he likely would play with a cast.

"In my mind, I'll be out there, but we'll have to see what happens in practice this week," he said. "I've got to see how it feels, and hopefully, I'll be out there."

Tight end Todd Heap is battling a strained hamstring that has sidelined him in five of the team's past seven games.

New England listed three key players -- quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder), right guard Stephen Neal (shoulder) and wide receiver Wes Welker (team decision) -- as being limited in practice yesterday.

The right score

The Patriots have been outscoring their opponents by an average of more than 23 points this season, leading critics to accuse coach Bill Belichick of running up the score.

Ravens coach Brian Billick said he's not buying that argument.

"It's a physical game. You go out there to score," he said. "So I don't have a problem with that. I don't. It is what it is. I've been on both sides, and one side's more fun than the other. But, no, I don't make much of it. I'm not offended by it."

Humble perfection

New England is doing what it can to avoid the distractions that accompany trying to remain undefeated.

With media attention surrounding the team's 11-0 record continuing to gain steam, Patriots players have taken to wearing T-shirts that read "I Eat It" on the front and "Humble Pie" on the back -- an idea thought of by former Raven Adalius Thomas.

Belichick tried to deflect talk of an undefeated season during a conference call yesterday with the media that cover the Ravens.

"Our focus is the Ravens," he said. "Whatever anybody else wants to focus on or talk about, we don't really have any control over that. Whatever it is, it is. We just know we have our hands full this week, coming down there and trying to get ready for a team that is very experienced, is tough, has a tremendous record in December and at home, plays with a lot of energy in their stadium, and that's the environment we're coming into. So we know we're going to have to play our best football this week."

End zone

After surrendering an NFL-low 201 points last season, the Ravens have given up 243 this season. ... Equipment manager Ed Carroll underwent arthroscopic knee surgery yesterday. "We're listing him as doubtful," senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne said jokingly.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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