Ravens' Health Could Be A Concern

The Baltimore Ravens play the New England Patriots On Monday night and they will need to have as many healthy bodies as possible to play well. Deemed a 20-point underdog this week by the oddsmakers, Baltimore could use both Chris McAlister and Todd Heap if they're truly healthy.

The Ravens could be getting healthy at the right time.

When they play the unbeaten New England Patriots on Monday, the Ravens could have all but one of their projected starters (defensive tackle Trevor Pryce is on injured reserve).

The Ravens welcomed back two starters who missed every practice last week: cornerback Chris McAlister (strained right knee) and tight end Todd Heap (hamstring).

It would mark the first time since the second game of the season that both McAlister and Samari Rolle would start at cornerback.

"I'm going to push through harder this week than I have in the past just to give me the opportunity to get out there because of what this game means, playing at home and playing against the Patriots, who appear to be the best team in the NFL," McAlister said. "It's always a good thing to be able to go out there and compete against the best."

The addition of Heap would be a much-needed boost to the Ravens offense. The hamstring injury has sidelined him in five of the team's past seven games.

Against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Patriots defense seemed vulnerable over the middle. Heap would be the best option for the Ravens to hit New England in that area.

Ravens coach Brian Billick was cautiously optimistic about fielding a team that hasn't been this healthy since the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

"That would be a good group to take up against this very good New England team," Billick said. "It would be nice to have all hands on deck."

The Ravens are also expected to start Jarret Johnson (fractured right thumb) at outside linebacker.

Johnson said he fractured his right thumb while making a tackle during Sunday's 32-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers. If he plays, Johnson said he likely would play with a cast.

"In my mind, I'll be out there, but we'll have to see what happens in practice this week," he said. "I've got to see how it feels, and hopefully, I'll be out there."

Running back Willis McGahee (ankle), defensive tackle Justin Bannan (ankle) and linebacker Gary Stills (knee) also were limited in practice. Rookie offensive tackle Jared Gaither missed practice because of illness.

Quarterback Steve McNair (partially dislocated shoulder) and wide receiver Demetrius Williams (high left ankle sprain) have been ruled out.

Meanwhile, the Ravens have taken offense to being named 20 1/2-point underdogs.

"Are we? To hell with it," receiver Derrick Mason said. "We're going to go out there and play. It doesn't matter to me. We could have been 100-point underdogs; it doesn't matter to me. I know a lot of people figure we should just pack it up and not go out there and play. But, we're a football team just like they're a football team. We've just got to out there and allow our play to dictate the way the game goes."

Billick joked about the point spread.

"Wow, sounds like a good bet," he said sarcastically.

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