Behind Enemy Lines

Here's what's brewing in Baltimore, Cincinnati, and (holds nose) Pittsburgh...

BALTIMORE RAVENS

HOT TOPIC

The Ravens' game at the Houston Texans has been moved to Monday night at 8:30 p.m. ET because of the threat of Hurricane Ike.

The hurricane is expected to reach landfall in Texas this weekend, striking between Houston and Corpus Christi.

Ike likely will come ashore as a dangerous Category 3 storm on the five-step intensity scale with winds of more than 111 mph either late Friday or early Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The decision by the league came down after a conference call with officials from the Ravens and the Houston Texans.

"This was the league's recommendation and we agreed," Ravens president Dick Cass said.

This marks the second time in the Ravens' 13-year history that a regular-season game has been moved.

In 2001, the Ravens' home opener had to be postponed until the end of the season because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We understand completely why the change had to be made," coach John Harbaugh said. "We'll adjust our schedules."

The game was originally scheduled for Sunday at 4:15 p.m., and the Ravens were set to fly to Houston on Saturday. But travel became a problem when airports in Houston announced they were shutting down Friday and Saturday.

The Ravens have changed their schedule, scheduling a short practice Sunday before flying out late that day.

There is a possibility that the game could be changed again Sunday if Hurricane Ike causes damage to the city and Reliant Stadium, the team's 71,054-seat retractable roof stadium.

If the game can't be played in Houston, the NFL might consider relocating the game to an alternate site. Shifting the game to Atlanta, which is 793 miles east of Houston, was discussed by the league.

"I'm sure the league and the Texans will monitor the situation and see what the conditions are in Houston when the storm has passed through (Saturday)," Cass said.

Keeping the game in Houston goes against the league's recent trend of moving games that are affected by severe weather. In 2003, a game in San Diego was moved to Arizona State because southern California was being ravaged by wildfires. In 2005, the league decided on a controversial move when it made New Orleans, which suffered through Hurricane Katrina, play an originally scheduled home game against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium. The NFL took heat for giving the Giants an unfair advantage, one reason why this weekend's game wasn't moved to Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron coached on the Chargers' staff in 2003, when the Cedar Fire forced the game against the Miami Dolphins to be played on a Monday night at Arizona State.

"Veterans don't last in this business being distracted," Cameron said. "These guys are warriors and we got a lot of those guys here. I can't imagine many things distracting this coaching staff or this football team. We all have an understanding that it's a blessing to coach or play in a NFL game. Just tell us when the game is and where to play it and we'll play it."

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--RB Willis McGahee is expected to play but he might not start. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said McGahee would have a "role" but speculated that the Ravens will have a running back by committee this week with McGahee, Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain.

--RB Ray Rice should still receive around 10 carries because the Ravens will go to a running back-by-committee approach. Rice should split time with Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain.

--NT Kelly Gregg did not practice Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. It appears like Gregg had a setback and might not play. He would be replaced by Justin Bannan.

--PR-KR Yamon Figurs did not practice Thursday after injuring his hamstring in Wednesday's practice. He would be replaced by Jim Leonhard.

--CB Fabian Washington missed his second straight practice with a neck injury. He was expected to be the Ravens' nickel back. He would be replaced by Corey Ivy.

--DE Trevor Pryce was added to the injury report Thursday with a back injury. He is still expected to start.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

HOT TOPIC

Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom will face his old team, Tennessee, in the Bengals' home opener Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. Odom has looked forward to the game since signing with the Bengals in March.

He had a career-high eight sacks in 2007 for the Titans and led the team with 29 quarterback pressures. Odom started all 16 games for the playoff-bound Titans in 2007, which helped him secure a five-year, $29.5 million deal from the Bengals as an unrestricted free agent.

"You always want to beat your former team, so I'm excited. We've got our work cut out for us, though," Odom said. He has invited 16 friends and family members to watch the showdown.

He had only one tackle in the Bengals' opener. Coach Marvin Lewis attributed it to anxiousness and limited snaps, following a sprained foot in training camp, but expects to see more of him Sunday.

"We saw some of the things of why we brought him here. He was able to show he can rush the passer, and that's a good thing," Lewis said.

Odom said he needed to work on his conditioning, a byproduct of a preseason injury. He sprained his left ankle on the first day of training camp. Odom had a more severe injury two years ago. He played sparingly in 2006 because of a knee injury, but rebounded with the impressive 2007 effort.

"Antwan, when he is healthy, will live up to everyone's expectations. He is a very talented defensive player. He is a good run defender, he's got exceptional quickness and strike and leverage. And he's a very good pass rusher," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.

The Bengals signed Odom to bolster what was the NFL's worst pass rush in 2007. They had just 22 sacks. The Titans, on the other hand, had seven in their opening victory against Jacksonville.

Odom said he has had a smooth transition to his new club. He still stays in touch with Tennessee linebacker Keith Bulluck, quarterback Vince Young and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. But there hasn't been much smack-talking among them just yet.

"That comes right before the game," Odom said.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--SS Dexter Jackson (thumb) was not at practice Thursday. He was listed as not participating.

--SS Chinedum Ndukwe (knee), who was hurt the second week of training camp, was limited in participation Thursday but could be forced to play because of SS Dexter Jackson's injury.

--CB David Jones, the Bengals' nickel back, did not practice Thursday because of a concussion he sustained Sunday at Baltimore. The Bengals are having a series of injuries hit their defensive secondary.

--S Herana-Daze Jones, a solid defensive backup and strong special teams player, did not practice Thursday because of a hamstring injury.

--DE Frostee Rucker (foot) returned to practice in limited fashion Thursday.

--DT Pat Sims (toe) practiced in limited fashion for the second day in a row.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

HOT TOPIC

Two big practice days heading into an early AFC North Division showdown in Cleveland, and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger still hasn't thrown a pass.

Roethlisberger, who did not practice at all on Wednesday, took some snaps on Thursday but mainly just handed off. Byron Leftwich, his backup, did all the throwing.

Roethlisberger has a sore right shoulder, the result of a sack by Houston's Mario Williams Sunday at Heinz Field. Roethlisberger lost a fumble on the play. He never left the game until the start of the fourth quarter, when coach Mike Tomlin pulled him for competitive reasons after Pittsburgh jumped in front 35-3.

There had been more concern about Roethlisberger's right knee that was hyperextended near the end of the first half. As long as Roethlisberger can practice on Friday, he will play.

"That is a big man. He about broke my arm when he caused the fumble," Roethlisberger said of Houston's Williams. "I have been hit like that a lot, but my arm was still attached to the football and he was holding my arm. He is a big man."

Roethlisberger is a big man in the Steelers offense. He completed 13 of 14 passes against Houston, with the only incompletion one he threw away to avoid a sack. He threw two touchdown passes to Hines Ward. Leftwich was 0-for-4 in the fourth quarter.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--CB Deshea Townsend (bruised heel) did not practice again and coach Mike Tomlin said he was not game ready. That means that Bryant McFadden could start at right corner Sunday.

--OT Marvel Smith, who missed practice on Wednesday with a groin injury, went through a full practice on Thursday and should start.

--DE Brett Keisel repeated a trend in the opener that he had last season. He had no sacks but led the Steelers with three quarterback pressures.

--QB Ben Roethlisberger's record in his home state of Ohio, where he played high school and college, is 9-0 in Cincinnati and Cleveland since he joined the Steelers in 2004.

--TE Heath Miller could have a big game against Cleveland. Third on the Steelers with 47 receptions last season, he will operate in a secondary that's missing strong safety Sean Jones.



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