Ravens might get 5 back

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Starters Heap, McAlister, Johnson could be healthy for Patriots game

Ravens Notebook

November 30, 2007|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

The Ravens could welcome back three starters and two key reserves just in time for Monday night's game against the undefeated New England Patriots.

Cornerback Chris McAlister (strained right knee), linebacker Jarret Johnson (fractured right thumb) and tight end Todd Heap (strained hamstring) were at the portion of practice open to the media yesterday. Although they were described by the team as being limited in practice, their appearance could be interpreted as an encouraging sign.

Add the return of safety Gerome Sapp (full participation despite a hamstring injury) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (limited because of a sprained toe), and coach Brian Billick was cautiously optimistic about fielding a team that hasn't been this healthy since the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

"That would be a good group to take up against this very good New England team," Billick said. "It would be nice to have all hands on deck."

Running back Willis McGahee (ankle), defensive tackle Justin Bannan (ankle) and linebacker Gary Stills (knee) also were limited in practice. Rookie offensive tackle Jared Gaither missed practice because of illness.

Quarterback Steve McNair (partially dislocated shoulder) and wide receiver Demetrius Williams (high left ankle sprain) have been ruled out.

For the Patriots, quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder) and wide receiver Wes Welker (team decision) were limited in practice for the second consecutive day. Running back Kevin Faulk (thigh) did not practice for the second straight day.

Safety Eugene Wilson, who also was limited, was added to the injury report.

R. Lewis on Taylor

The shooting death of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor has had a pronounced effect on Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

Lewis - who, like Taylor, played at the University of Miami - said he has been too upset by Taylor's death to talk about the game against the Patriots.

"To think of anything else really, outside of trying find a way to really deal with my personal feelings, would be very selfish of me to even try to comment on anything without trying to create something that I would be making up," said Lewis, who did not take questions yesterday.

"As a man, I would ask for your guy's sympathy just to understand that it's a very challenging time. Not just for me but for the University of Miami family.

"You don't lose a 24-year-old kid with that much promise in life. It makes you take a step back. For me, it made me take a huge, huge step back to ask God: `What is it that you want me to do and stop being selfish about?' If anything, the game is going to take care of itself. I'm just going to get through this week and, hopefully, help a lot of my teammates get through this week, as well as a lot of Hurricane family, and we're just going to go from there."

Army vs. Navy

Billick, whose father, Don, was an Air Force pilot, offered his appreciation for the annual Army-Navy rivalry, which will add another chapter tomorrow at M&T Bank Stadium.

"That's one of those things where even if you're not a football fan, that's one of the sporting events you need to see, like the Indy 500, like a Kentucky Derby, like a Super Bowl," Billick said. "You need to go to an Army-Navy game. It's an incredible atmosphere, and it ought to be a great game Saturday."

End zone

Ravens minority owner Art Modell was left off the list of 26 semifinalists nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2008. Twenty-four of the 26 semifinalists are former players. Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue and former New York Giants general manager George Young are the only non-players to make the list. ... Yesterday was the second of four consecutive practices planned this week for the Ravens. It marked the first time this season that the team had scheduled four practices in the week leading up to a Monday night game. "There wasn't anything physically involved, really," Billick said of Wednesday's session, which he classified as a walk-through. "Just getting a little bit of jump on what we're going to see Monday night."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

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