A special opportunity for Rice

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

With top returner Figurs injured, Ravens see running back as go-to optionnotebook

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October 24, 2008|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,edward.lee@baltsun.com

Ray Rice's contributions likely won't be limited to offense when the Ravens host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

With return specialist Yamon Figurs hobbled by a left knee bruise, Rice, the rookie running back from Rutgers, has emerged as the team's top option on kick returns.

"I'm going to be getting the reps if he's not practicing," Rice said. "I'll be prepared for the game plan, no matter where it goes."

Rice fared well in Sunday's 27-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins. He averaged 25.3 yards on four kick returns, starting the offense on the Ravens' 23-, 25-, 29- and 33-yard lines.

The coaching staff has tried to find ways to get Rice more involved, and putting him on kick returns would seem to take advantage of his cutback ability.

But Rice said his first priority is putting the offense in favorable field position.

"Getting field position is huge," he said. "That actually helps us start a drive and maintain a drive."

If Figurs - who missed his fifth consecutive practice dating to last week - can't go, special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said he has faith in Rice.

"If he's up and ready to go, we'll use him," Rosburg said of Figurs. "In our return game, we like the guys that pound it up there. That's kind of how it's designed, and Ray did that. He was physical, and he found the crease. We didn't block perfectly for him, but that's something we think we can build on."

Angry Rex

Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan went from affable to agitated when he was peppered with questions about cornerback Chris McAlister.

After insisting that the makeup of the defensive personnel can be determined by certain packages and matchups, Ryan was then asked to clarify the reasoning behind McAlister's limited snaps Sunday.

"You figure it out. You guys probably know the defense better than I do and what's best for us," a clearly irritated Ryan said. "I'm just saying we're going to do what's best for our football team. If that means to take out [linebacker] Ray Lewis, then we'll take out Ray Lewis if we think that's our best matchup. We owe it to our football team to do what we think is best. And whatever that is, the matchups, certain route combinations, there are all kinds of things to consider. So those are things that we do as coaches.

"We put in a hundred hours of tape where the fan and most people are just watching three hours, the length of the game. I'm not being critical of anybody else. I just think it's time to focus on who we're playing."

Ryan later skirted the issue of bounties as discussed by linebacker Terrell Suggs, saying, "I don't really know the particulars yet. Someone had mentioned something to me. So I'd rather not comment until I hear it myself."

Landry update

Strong safety Dawan Landry said he is at least a few more weeks away from returning to the practice field.

Landry, who has been ruled out of Sunday's game because of the spinal cord concussion he suffered against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 21, said he still feels what he called "a little tingling" in his back.

"I feel fine physically," Landry said. "I've been working out, running and things like that. That feels fine, but at the same time, I still have to get everything clear."

End zone

In addition to Figurs, wide receivers Derrick Mason (illness) and Demetrius Williams (left Achilles tendon) did not practice yesterday. Free safety Ed Reed (thigh) returned to practice, but he was limited, as were McAlister (right knee) and offensive tackle Jared Gaither (neck/shoulder). Running back Willis McGahee (knee) was upgraded from limited to full participation. ... Raiders defensive end Derrick Burgess (triceps) missed his second straight practice, but defensive tackle Gerard Warren (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis. Rookie running back Darren McFadden (toe) was also limited. ... Buddy Ryan, the father of defensive coordinators Rex and Rob Ryan, will attend Sunday's contest. On whose sideline will the elder Ryan stand? "He's definitely going to be on ours," Rex Ryan said. ... Raiders cornerback DeAngelo Hall has had his share of run-ins with wide receivers such as the Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith, the Cincinnati Bengals' Chad Johnson and the Dallas Cowboys' Terrell Owens, but Hall said he does not expect a similar exchange with Mason. "Last time I played against him, when I was in Atlanta, we actually exchanged jerseys after the game, so he's a guy that I respect. I think he respects me, too," Hall said during a conference call with Baltimore media Wednesday. "We're going to go out there and have fun. If we end up talking a little bit, then we do. But I definitely respect him as a player, I feel like he's done a lot in this league, and hopefully I can make it to 13 [seasons]."

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