Ravens Notebook

OWINGS MILLS – Still unable to practice yet this week, Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain expressed optimism that he might be able to play Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. McClain said he performed some drills on the side at practice while rehabilitating his sprained left ankle, and hopes to possibly take part in practice today.

"Yeah, I'm feeling good," McClain said. "I'm getting ready for Sunday. It's day to day. I'm trying to get this thing right, so I can get ready to play Sunday.

"I got the game plan down. You need that practice time to get that execution down for Sunday. I take very much pride in that. I'm doing my best to get out there and get the job done." McClain wasn't limping as noticeably Thursday. Asked if someone should bet on him play, McClain replied: "Please do, please do."

Contrary to strong rumors, McClain said that he doesn't have a high-ankle sprain. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, McClain sorely wants to play in this game. He's aware, though, that there's a bigger picture than just this game, even though the AFC North lead is at stake.

"This is a divisional game, Pittsburgh coming to town trying to knock us off," McClain said. "I want to play so bad out there with my guys, Sunday night football. You got to be smart about it.

" Whatever I do, I don't want to go out there and be 60 percent and hurt the team. If I can't be 100 percent, I'm going to be a letdown out there. I'm doing whatever I can to get back for Sunday." Meanwhile, special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg isn't regretting utilizing McClain on kickoff returns.

McClain injured his ankle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a kickoff return. "I wouldn't use the word ‘worry,'" Rosburg said. "I'm concerned about every player that's on the field. Injuries are part of football. I don't want anyone to get hurt. I don't want Le'Ron to get hurt. It happens. Le'Ron was really doing a good job on our kickoff return team. He made a difference for us since he's been in there. "We'll continue to use the best players. Le'Ron is a very team-oriented guy who is doing the best he can. He really brought some spark to the unit, and it helped us. As soon as he's healthy, I'm sure he'll be right back on there and be excited to do so."

If McClain is unable to play, the Ravens will go with newly-acquired fullback Jason McKie. McKie is a former Chicago Bears starter who has absorbed the playbook quickly. "They went out and found a veteran guy who picks things up quickly, has the basic concepts down of what we do in our regular package because that's where we would need him," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "The minute you start worrying about it, then you might as well as not play the guy. So if he's in there, we won't blink. We'll run the offense that we run and expect him to know what to do I'm really amazed that you can find a guy like that at this time of year." ROETHLISBERGER HAS A BROKEN FOOT: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's foot isn't just sprained. It's actually broken, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Per the report, Roethlisberger broke his fifth metatarsal against the Buffalo Bills. Roethlisberger was limited in practice again, but is expected to play Sunday night. The Steelers released a statement after practice Thursday in response to inquiries about Roethlisberger.

"There is no new fracture in Ben's foot," Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett said. "Ben's current injury is an aggravation of an old injury where scar tissue is present." GAITHER WANTS TO RETURN NEXT SEASON: Out for the season on injured reserve after a frustrating upper back injury that never got better, Ravens offensive tackle Jared Gaither would like to give it another shot next season in Baltimore. It's unclear, though, if the Ravens will want him back after a calamitous year that began with a rocky offseason.

"This is where I started my career, and I would love to start and end my career in the same place," Gaither said. "With that being said, even if I didn't, I love this organization. I love the camaraderie of the team. This is my place. Hopefully, I can come back and do good things." A restricted free agent, Gaither's $2.396 million contract expires after this season. When asked if he would want to sign with another team if offered the chance to play left tackle, Gaither replied: "That's a long way away. Obviously, my main focus and goal is to get healthy now and we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

The 6-foot-9, 330-pound offensive tackle hurt his back during the first week of training camp and was carted off the field with back spasms. He was diagnosed with a thoracic disk condition and went to California twice to visit back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins. Surgery was not recommended and no surgery is planned for the offseason. "It's been getting better," Gaither said. "I feel a lot better."

This has been the most frustrating season ever for Gaither after starting for the Ravens for the past few seasons since being drafted in the fifth round of the supplemental draft out of the University of Maryland. "I don't think any player wants to get put on IR and be done for the season," Gaither said. "Obviously, my initial reaction was I was disappointed about it, but I understand what has to go on in an organization. I take it in stride and I'm working hard to get out there next year. "Obviously, I haven't been able to play football. 'It's been pretty rough just having to watch, having an injury with my back. It's been a rough year, but I take it all in stride and I'll be ready for next year."

LANDRY EXPECTS TO PLAY: Strong safety Dawan Landry expects to play Sunday one week after suffering a mild concussion. Although Landry said he has no lingering symptoms from the concussion, which was caused by his big hit on Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Cadillac Williams, he has yet to take the baseline test. He was limited in practice Thursday. He was slated to take an impact test Thursday and the neurological test today. "I didn't take the test yet, but I feel good," Landry said. "I feel fine. No problem. I feel good."

Landry said a slight headache went away by Sunday night following the Ravens' 17-10 win over Tampa Bay. Landry was limited Thursday. When asked if there's any chance he would miss the game Sunday, Landry said, "It depends on what the test says, but I feel good. I might need somebody to take it for me." Wide receiver Derrick Mason (illness) didn't practice. Offensive guard Chris Chester (lower leg infection), tight end Ed Dickson (hamstring) and offensive tackle Michael Oher (sprained knee) participated fully.

For the Steelers, cornerback Keenan Lewis (illness), defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps) and tight end Matt Spaeth (concussion) didn't practice. Participating fully: offensive tackle Flozell Adams (back), defensive ends Brett Keisel (calf) and Nick Eason (knee), cornerback Bryant McFadden (hamstring) and safety Troy Polamalu (ankle). QUICK HITS: Replaced as a starting cornerback and deactivated altogether last week against Tampa Bay, Fabian Washington is hoping to get some playing time on special teams. "Well, Fabian's been working," Rosburg said. "He played full safety, and the last time he was up, he played holdup corner on punt return. At this point, that's what he's been contributing." Rosburg said that Washington has always had a good attitude about playing special teams. "I don't think it necessarily improved," he said. "It's always been good. It's never been down, so there really wasn't anywhere to go. He's a team guy. He wants to help the team." … The Ravens had a left-footed punter in for a one-day tryout to prepare for Steelers punter Daniel Sepulveda. .

… Safety Ken Hamlin went unclaimed after being placed on waivers by the Ravens and is now an unrestricted free agent. … Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison attributes outside linebacker Terrell Suggs' improvement from last season to losing roughly 20 pounds after reporting at 283 pounds at training camp last year. "He probably got a little too heavy, which probably made him a step or two away on his pass rush," Mattison said. "I think he's probably 20 pounds lighter than he was last year, and you can see it."

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