Tackle's Education

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Notebook

Gaither Says He Has Learned A Lot About Steelers' Harrison Since First Encounter

November 26, 2009|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

The first time Ravens left tackle Jared Gaither faced Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison, Gaither was a nervous rookie playing for the first time in prime time.

It did not go well for Gaither that night at Heinz Field.

When the dirt and grass settled, Harrison had 2.5 sacks, eight tackles, and a forced fumble in a 23-20 Steelers overtime victory. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco spent much of the game running for his life.

"He was so versatile," Gaither said when asked what he remembers the most about his first meeting with Harrison "He's a low-center-of-gravity guy, but he has speed, power and quickness. He has a lot of moves."

But Gaither says he learned a lot from that first matchup, and he proved it the next two times the teams met. In the Steelers' 13-9 victory in Baltimore later that season, Harrison had just five tackles and didn't record a sack. In the AFC championship game, he had six tackles but zero sacks.

"He has a great motor," Gaither said. "He does a good job keeping it coming all four quarters. ... I felt like I really learned a lot about what moves he likes and how he goes about his business on the football field."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he thinks the protection provided by Gaither and Michael Oher - who are coming off a game in which they didn't allow a sack to Colts pass rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis - will be a major factor in the game Sunday.

"Their [tackles] have done a nice job of protecting their quarterback," Tomlin said. "It's going to be an exciting matchup, and I think it's going to be one of the central matchups in the football game, our edge men versus their pass protectors. We'll see how it turns out."

Freeney told the Indianapolis media this week that he wasn't particularly in awe of the job Gaither and Oher did because he felt they had help most of the time blocking him. Gaither said he doesn't remember it that way.

"I don't know too many times where we had help, so I guess I can't really speak to that," Gaither said.

Lewis' limp

Linebacker Ray Lewis acknowledged Wednesday that he did tweak his right ankle somewhat early in the game against the Colts and that he had to fight through a bit of pain the rest of the way, but he didn't want to use it as an excuse for missing a tackle of Joseph Addai on the goal line.

He said it was more like aggravating a previous injury.

"It's kind of a foot thing that I've been dealing with," Lewis said. "Bottom line, it kind of got caught between two people on a freakish play. That's kind of the way things always happen. I came out of it OK. The limp was kind of obvious. The plant was whatever. It's going to be what it's going to be. Everybody is dealing with injuries at this point in the year. All you can do is keep nursing them and hope you'll be 90 to 95 percent when Sundays come around."

Why no Suggs Package?

The Ravens have never run any version of the Wildcat formation that has become trendy around the NFL the past two years, but the recent struggles inside the red zone have led to some fans wondering: Whatever happened to the "Suggs Package," where the offense took advantage of the strong arm and athleticism of backup quarterback Troy Smith?

The formation - which was playfully dubbed the "Suggs Package" last year by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron after linebacker Terrell Suggs caused a minor stir by saying that Smith should be playing more often - was tremendously effective for the Ravens last year. Smith, a star at Ohio State and the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, ran the option with Ray Rice for a 21-yard gain in a 27-10 win over the Oakland Raiders, and completed a 43-yard pass to Flacco as well out of the formation last year.

But Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he wasn't going to discuss why the offense hasn't used it this year.

"I get asked that all the time as far as the 'Suggs Package,' " Harbaugh said. "We do what we think we need to do, and what's best, week to week. I don't want to get into any reasoning for it. We have our reasons for what we do every week. We try to do the best we can to try and score as many points as we can. Some games we've done better than [other] games. That's a part of who we are, it's in the mix, but if I get into it, it's kind of tactical."

Harbaugh wasn't defensive about the question. In fact, he smiled and then laughed at the silence that followed his answer.

"I know that's a cop-out. Am I ducking the question? Yeah," he said. "I understand that. But I just don't want to talk about it."

Flacco said the idea of using the formation had not come up recently.

"I haven't even thought about it, to tell you the truth," Flacco said. "We're out there trying to do what we can to try and be successful. At times we've been more successful than others. I don't think any of us really blink an eye about what we have and what we haven't done."

End zone

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger participated in practice Wednesday. ... Five Steelers did not practice. They were: quarterback Charlie Batch (left wrist), linebacker James Farrior (not injury-related), guard Chris Kemoeatu (knee), safety Troy Polamalu (knee) and wide receiver Hines Ward (not injury-related). ... Five Ravens did not practice Wednesday: center Matt Birk (neck), Lewis (foot), safety Ed Reed (foot), tight end L.J. Smith (illness) and Suggs (knee).

Baltimore Sun reporters Edward Lee and Ken Murray contributed to this article.

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