Ankles away: Heap's, L.J. Smith's a 'concern' to Harbaugh

Jones, Chester have limited experience catching ball

December 15, 2009|By Edward Lee | edward.lee@baltsun.com

A logjam at tight end has suddenly turned into a void, creating a bit of a concern for the Ravens.

Starter Todd Heap injured his right ankle in the third quarter of Sunday's 48-3 rout of the Detroit Lions, and backup L.J. Smith has missed the past two games with an ankle injury of his own.

If that duo can't play Sunday against the Chicago Bears, that would leave the Ravens with Edgar Jones and converted offensive lineman Chris Chester as the team's only tight ends.

Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged Monday that the uncertainty at the position is worrisome.

"It's a concern because it'll take you out of certain personnel packages," he said. "But we can put receivers on the field, and we can put linemen on the field. We're going to have 11 guys out there no matter what. Our offensive coaches are very creative. They've figured out some oddball packages, and maybe that gives your opponent more to plan for than the standard formations and groupings that you get."

Heap injured his ankle after catching a 31-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco. Heap returned to the game before sitting out the fourth quarter.

"I just kind of jammed it a little bit, and he [Lions cornerback Phillip Buchanon] kind of fell on it funny," said Heap, who did not appear to limp after the game. "So we retaped it and got back in there."

Jones caught his second career pass, an 8-yarder, early in the fourth quarter Sunday.

"It's a great feeling," said Jones, whose previous reception was a 25-yarder against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 28. "My first job is to contribute on special teams and go out there and do what I've got to do on special teams. But once my name is called to go out there and play offense, I want to make sure that I'm doing my job."

Chester had started 24 consecutive games at right guard before being replaced by Marshal Yanda three weeks ago.

"Well, obviously, those guys, their strength - especially in Chris' case - is in blocking," Harbaugh said. "I don't know how many times we're going to be sending him down a seam route. And Edgar's done a nice job. He caught a pass. So we'll just have to see how that goes."

Injury updates
Three starters - free safety Ed Reed (strained hip/foot), wide receiver Mark Clayton (right hamstring) and left tackle Jared Gaither (lower back) - missed Sunday's game, and Harbaugh was guarded about their availability for Sunday.

"I would say optimistic, yeah," he said. "Not sure. Jared's got some lower back tightness. He can go. It's just a matter of how effective he can be. Mark, probably as the week goes on, we'll have to see how much he can move around on that thing. I know he's a lot better today than he was last week. And Ed, same thing. He's going to have to get out there and practice and get a feel for it. It'll be up to him. So I'd put Ed and Mark kind of in the same category."

Interception machine
Two starts, two interceptions for Tom Zbikowski.

Filling in for Reed, Zbikowski picked off a pass from Daunte Culpepper intended for wide receiver Dennis Northcutt and returned it 21 yards in the fourth quarter.

"It was a good pass rush by [defensive tackle] Justin Bannan on that play to make that play," said Zbikowski, who intercepted the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers on Dec. 7. "Last year, I don't think I would have been ready for it, but I was always that player in college with interceptions and forced fumbles. I may not understand the game as well as everyone else, but I've always just been able to get to the ball."

Sack delay
It took Antwan Barnes almost two years to get a sack. He didn't mind waiting a few minutes for confirmation.

The third-year linebacker appeared to take down Culpepper late in the second quarter, but officials ruled that the Lions quarterback had released the ball before he was brought to the turf. After a challenge by Harbaugh, officials reversed the ruling, crediting Barnes with a 9-yard sack.

"As soon as I saw the replay, I was like, 'He was down,' " said Barnes, whose last sack was Dec. 16, 2007, in a 22-16 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins. "I don't know what was taking him so long to call it. But I'm glad it got it, and I'm ready to move on to Chicago."

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