Andre Johnson has been described as the model for NFL wide receivers. The Ravens are inclined to agree with that claim.
As the Ravens prepare for Monday night's showdown with the Houston Texans, many of the defensive players are well aware of what awaits them in the form of Johnson.
"He has everything you look for when you're thinking about a prototype wide receiver," cornerback Josh Wilson said. "You want a big, tall, strong, fast guy, and that's him to a 'T.' He makes plays on the ball, and he makes great runs after the catch. He's definitely — if not the top guy — one of the top two receivers in the league."
The 6- foot-3, 223-pound Johnson ranks fourth in the league in receiving yards (1,018) and tied for fourth in catches (71) despite drawing opponents' top — and sometimes top two — defenders.
Johnson's accomplishments are even more surprising considering that he has been forced to play on a high right ankle sprain suffered in a win against the Washington Redskins on Sept. 19.
The pain has forced him to sit out two games and even undergo cortisone shots during contests, but Johnson hasn't complained, according to Texans coach Gary Kubiak.
"He doesn't really practice except for one day a week and has had to take some shots during the course of games to play, but he just keeps giving up for his team," Kubiak said during a conference call with Baltimore media Thursday. "It's been pretty amazing to me, but that's him. Andre is a warrior, doing whatever he can do for his football team to win."
Since Houston made him the third overall pick in the 2003 draft, Johnson has averaged 5.82 receptions per game, which puts him behind only the Ravens' Anquan Boldin, who is averaging 6.0 catches per game over that same time span.
Still, the Ravens are wary about devoting too much attention to Johnson.
"I think he's open a lot of times because people do bring a safety down in the box to stop the run, so he's single-covered out there a lot," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said Friday. "I think that's what makes it difficult with him because he does demand double coverage by his talents and by what he's shown, but at the same time, when you're double-covering somebody like that, now you're not as heavy inside. That's what makes their offense good."
Heap ruled out
Although coach John Harbaugh had held out hope that Todd Heap could be available Monday night, the Ravens ruled out the starting tight end, according to the team's final injury report of the week.
Heap sat out all three days of practice this week after pulling his right hamstring on the first play of Sunday night's 13-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rookie Ed Dickson is expected to make his first career start in Heap's place.
Prior to the release of the injury report, Harbaugh remained optimistic about Heap's possible return.
"I think he's got an outside chance, I would say," Harbaugh said after the team's practice Saturday. "Realistically, it would probably be tough for him to come back. I'll hold out hope as always because he's a tough guy and he's been rehabbing like crazy and he's made a lot of progress from yesterday to today. But we'll probably plan for the worst and hope for the best."
Cornerback Fabian Washington did not practice for the second consecutive day due to a thigh injury. But he is questionable for Monday night.
Two-time Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain (sprained left ankle) fully participated all three days and is probable. Cornerback Lardarius Webb (thigh) practiced after being limited on Friday, and he is probable. And free safety Tom Zbikowski (foot) fully participated and is probable.
D.Reed will play
An investigation involving "possible narcotics" at David Reed's apartment in Owings Mills will not prevent the rookie kick returner from playing Monday night.
"He'll play," Harbaugh said Saturday. "It's not something that really affects his football status — certainly at this time. He'll have a chance to tell his side of it in a proper way when the time comes, and we'll just have to see how it all shakes out. It's in other people's hands right now."
Baltimore County police investigated Reed's residence Wednesday after getting a call about "possible narcotics," police said Friday. A police spokesman told The Sun that evidence was collected, but that charges have yet to be filed pending further investigation.
Reed, a fifth-round pick in April, has declined to comment about the incident.
Oher staying focused
Left tackle Michael Oher will line up against two opponents Monday night: himself and Texans defensive end Mario Williams.
Oher was flagged twice for jumping early in the team's 13-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night and had a holding penalty declined. According to Pro Football Weekly, Oher leads the Ravens offensive linemen in penalties (eight) and penalty yards (48).