Next Man Up

Facing Must-win Game Vs. Steelers, Ravens Scouting For A Cornerback

December 22, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,

The Ravens can clinch a playoff berth Sunday in Pittsburgh, but they'll need help from some AFC teams and perhaps a veteran cornerback to do so.

Rookie third-round pick Lardarius Webb will miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He injured his right knee blocking on the punt-return team in the third quarter of Sunday's 31-7 rout of the Chicago Bears.

Webb becomes the second starting cornerback to sustain a season-ending knee injury, joining Fabian Washington (hurt Nov. 22) on the sideline.

Based on coach John Harbaugh's news conference Monday, it appears the Ravens want to sign a veteran cornerback who can be suited up for practice Wednesday.

"We're looking through all the possible options," he said. "We want to bring in someone who can help us this week against Pittsburgh. That's our priority."

The Ravens are giving Corey Ivy a physical today and could sign their former nickel back to improve depth in the secondary and special teams, a league source said.

It's likely that Chris Carr will move into the starting lineup, and the Ravens could rotate Ivy and Frank Walker as the fifth defensive back in passing situations. If the Ravens sign Ivy, they would bypass three former Pro Bowl players (Chris McAlister, Patrick Surtain and Deltha O'Neal) who are on the free-agent market.

This is a difficult time for the Ravens to have a depleted secondary. Already down two starting cornerbacks and with Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed having missed the past three games, the Ravens will face Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for 503 yards and three touchdowns Sunday in a 37-36 win over the Green Bay Packers.

"I'm confident I can go out there and play well," Carr said.

The Ravens (8-6) have tremendous confidence because they are peaking at the right time. Their offense has scored 10 touchdowns the past two weeks. Their defense hasn't allowed a touchdown the past two games.

As a result, the Ravens will earn a playoff spot if they win their final two regular-season games (at Pittsburgh and at Oakland).

"We approach the fact that we control our own destiny as a challenge," Harbaugh said. "It's well-deserved. We have fought through a lot of adversity."

But there are two scenarios in which the Ravens can clinch a postseason berth Sunday:

* The Ravens win, the Jacksonville jaguars lose and either the New York Jets or Denver Broncos lose.

* The Ravens win, and the Miami Dolphins, Jets and Broncos all lose.

It comes as no surprise to Harbaugh that there is so much riding on the Ravens' game at Pittsburgh.

"We wouldn't have it any other way. We'd be playing this team at this time with something at stake no matter what," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, when the season started and you talked to our guys at the beginning, [you knew] this game was going to be meaningful. And, here we are."

Harbaugh added, "Maybe it's not the path that we all would have anticipated, but it's the path that got us here."

It has been a bumpy path recently because of injuries. The Ravens played last Sunday without four starters (Reed, wide receiver Mark Clayton, offensive tackle Jared Gaither and linebacker Tavares Gooden) and their No. 3 wide receiver (Kelley Washington).

"The good news is we're going to get some guys back, hopefully," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh said Clayton is overcoming tendinitis in his knee and could play at Pittsburgh. There is also a possibility that Reed (groin and foot) could return.

But the Ravens will have to move ahead without Webb, who had shown promise since taking over for Fabian Washington. In four starts, he made 18 tackles and broke up five passes.

"That's obviously disappointing," Harbaugh said. "He's played so well, and he's such a likable guy. He's made a big impact on our team. Guys really respect him. We're going to miss him."

Harbaugh has not ruled out the possibility of re-signing McAlister, who played for the Ravens for 10 seasons before being cut this past offseason. McAlister, who played two games for the New Orleans Saints this season before being released, called it a "bitter divorce" with the Ravens.

"We're open to bringing anybody back that can play and can help us," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, he would be an option, and there are other options out there as well."

The Ravens did not contact McAlister on Monday, agent Mitch Frankel said. Asked whether McAlister would be interested in returning to the Ravens, Frankel said he couldn't answer the question.

"I've never had a conversation with Chris about that," Frankel said.

It's hard to argue with the Ravens, who are seemingly making all the right moves these days. In two weeks, they went from the playoff bubble to the No. 5 seed in the AFC.

The Ravens, who are 6-1 in December under Harbaugh, still have a shot at winning the AFC North and playing a first-round game at home. They need to win out and the Cincinnati Bengals (9-5) have to lose their final two games (home against Kansas City and at the Jets) for the Ravens to win their first division title since 2006.

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