The gnashing of teeth is well under way in Buffalo, and it isn't just isolated to the Bills' 0-5 record.
Fans there are still seething that when Buffalo pays a visit to M&T Bank Stadium to meet the Ravens this Sunday, the team will play against a pair of Ravens who could have been wearing Bills jerseys.
In 2006, the organization used the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft to select strong safety Donte Whitner. Four picks later, the Ravens took defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
In 2009, Buffalo selected defensive end/linebacker Aaron Maybin with the 11th overall choice. Twelve slots later, the Ravens picked up offensive tackle Michael Oher.
The paths those players have taken since then are telling. Ngata, who has missed just three games in his career, earned his first Pro Bowl invitation last season, and he's already surpassed his previous career high with four sacks this year. Whitner started 42 games in his first three seasons, but injuries have allowed him to make just 13 starts in the past two years.
Oher has made 22 consecutive starts — the last six at left tackle protecting quarterback Joe Flacco. Maybin, an Ellicott City native and Mount Hebron graduate, has yet to collect a sack in 19 career games.
A website called BuffaloRumblings.com reminded its readers of those decisions and asked them to vote on which non-selection was more egregious. Based on 2,084 votes as of Thursday afternoon, 67 percent said that not taking Oher hurt more.
Oher said he was aware of the grumbling from Bills fans.
"I heard about it," he said. "But they picked who they wanted. They picked the best player for them. That was who they drafted."
Like Oher, Ngata said he interviewed with Bills front-office executives and coaches and thought the organization would choose him.
"Yeah, and I went out there for a visit, too," Ngata said. "I thought I was going to get picked there, but I'm happy now that I'm not."
If there is one gripe, Oher said he took umbrage with the poll's results.
"Being in this organization and seeing Haloti every day, I can tell you that it was worse for them not picking Haloti than them not picking me," he said. "They should've chosen Haloti over me. I'm telling you. I'm being completely honest."
Heap back at practice
After missing Wednesday's practice, tight end Todd Heap returned Thursday. Heap, who absorbed a helmet-to-helmet collision from New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather this past Sunday, was limited by a neck injury. Wide receiver Marcus Smith (back) was limited for the second straight day.
Free safety Tom Zbikowski (bruised heel) did not practice for the second consecutive day. Offensive tackle Tony Moll (eye) also did not participate.
Six of seven players who were limited Wednesday — wide receiver Derrick Mason (ankle/finger), linebacker Jarret Johnson (back), running back Ray Rice (ankle), safety Haruki Nakamura (back), cornerback Josh Wilson (hamstring) and defensive end Paul Kruger (sprained medial collateral ligament in left knee) — were upgraded to full participation Thursday. Linebacker Edgar Jones (thigh) practiced fully for the second straight day.
A somewhat surprising development was the appearance of wide receiver Donte' Stallworth, who has not stepped on to a field since breaking a bone in his left foot in the team's third preseason game on Aug. 28. Although he has already been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills, Stallworth looked fast and agile.
Rosburg not happy with returns
One of the biggest struggles for the Ravens this season has been kick returns, where they rank 22nd in the NFL with a 21-yard average.
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said there's no magical elixir to change the team's fortunes in that area.
"The way we look at it, the secret ingredient is good practice," Rosburg said Thursday. "It's hard work, it's attention to detail, it's film study, it's all of those things that go into football. I'm not happy with our return game right now, our players aren't happy, I'm not happy, the returners aren't happy, the blockers aren't happy, reporters aren't happy. We all want it to be better, and we'll work hard to try and correct that."
Wilson, whose availability on kick returns will be determined by the strength of his strained hamstring, said all the moving parts on returns must work in tandem to achieve success.
"Everything has to click," he said. "There's some where you're going to make a great play. You make a couple guys miss, and you're off to the house, but that's a rarity. That's hard because so many guys come from different angles, and it's hard to see everybody. I'm telling you, once this thing gets together, we'll be through talking about how there's no explosion. It's going to be, 'Man, what are you all going to do this time?'"