Ravens Notebook

OWINGS MILLS – Punter Sam Koch was arguably the Baltimore Ravens' biggest Pro Bowl snub. However, Koch is still planning on going to the NFL's annual all-star game in Hawaii. Koch and his wife were invited to attend the game as guests of kicker Billy Cundiff, who parlayed his breakthrough season into his first Pro Bowl selection.

"That's the good news," Koch said. Along with fullback Le'Ron McClain and offensive guard Ben Grubbs, Koch was named a first alternate for the Pro Bowl.

Koch was beaten out by Oakland Raiders punter Shane Lechler, who was named to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time and for the fourth year in a row. "Lechler's been there, well-deserving of it," Koch said. "He's a great punter. It's hard to beat out a great punter. He's got great numbers. I wish we could be there, me and Billy, but the good thing is Billy's going to be taking me. "Absolutely it's an honor to be a first alternate. So, I will take that if things don't work out with Lechler and they call me up. That's even better. It's a great honor."

Lechler is averaging 47 yards per punt. Koch ranks second in the league with 37 punts downed inside the 20-yard line, ranking seventh with a 39.0 net average.

He averages 43.0 yards per punt. "Sam Koch, for sure, has had a Pro Bowl year," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Some of the things Sam does are unrecognized by the voters sometimes. He doesn't have a huge gross, but he kicks directionally, he puts it out of bounds 40, 45 yards on a pretty regular basis. The pooch punting has been phenomenal. I would say he's deserving."

McClain didn't hide his disappointment at not making it to the Pro Bowl after being named a starter the previous two years. McClain was ranked first in the fan balloting in the final days.

"Oh yeah, very disappointed about that, but I can't do nothing about it," McClain said. "I got no control over it. My team's winning now, so I'm just looking forward to the Bengals and getting this 12th win."

Instead of McClain, Houston Texans fullback Vonta Leach is heading to the Pro Bowl for his work blocking for Arian Foster, the leading rusher in the league. "All props to Leach," McClain said. "I'm just so hard on myself. I feel like I'm supposed to be in there, hands down. I think it's been my best year blocking-wise. Me not touching the ball like I'd like to, that's another thing.

"But I'm good with it. It's something to build on. I'm trying to get to Dallas, so hopefully I wouldn't have been playing in it anyway."

Grubbs is an alternate for the second year in a row. It didn't help his cause that the running game wasn't as productive this year and the offensive line allowed 36 sacks.

"I'm definitely appreciative of being recognized," Grubbs said. "That definitely makes me feel good. At the same time, my goal every year is to be a starter, and anything less than that, it's something I'll continue to work at." Harbaugh said he believes Mason should be in the Pro Bowl.

"I don't understand why Derrick Mason doesn't make the Pro Bowl more," Harbaugh said. "He's the best route runner in the National Football League."

Mason is a two-time Pro Bowl selection, but his statistics don't stack up with the elite wide receivers. "It doesn't matter, man," Mason said. "It bothered me maybe eight years ago. That's when it probably bothered me, seven years ago, six years ago. Now, it is what it is. As long as I come in this locker room and do what I need to do, as long as opposing defenses and coaches come up to you after the game and they respect what you do, that's all that matters. "The guys they voted in had very, very good seasons. [Anquan Boldin] had a very good season, and he's my running mate on the other side. Our ultimate goal was not the Pro Bowl. Our ultimate goal is the Super Bowl. So hopefully none of the guys will be playing in the Pro Bowl."
LONG SNAPPER SIGNED: The Ravens signed veteran long snapper Kevin Houser as the replacement for injured rookie Morgan Cox. Houser was signed after Bryan Pittman failed his physical. "It's an honor and a privilege to be able to represent the team," Houser said. "The team has put itself in great position. I'm hoping to do whatever I can to help them reach the ultimate goal."

The Ravens auditioned Houser and Bryan Pittman on Tuesday and had them remain overnight to take physicals. Jake Ingram and Ethan Albright also tried out, but the team narrowed it down to Houser and Pittman.

"A veteran guy," Harbaugh said. "Did a really nice job in the workout yesterday, and we'll see how he does in practice. You look for long snapping, that's the number one thing. Then you go short snapping. You look at protection, how he handles the movement and stuff that goes along with protection.

"You look at his anchor a little bit, in case they try to bull-rush him. There are some things that are similar to pass protection with offensive linemen. The ability to recover off the snap and get his head up, and then how well he handles some of the calls and some of the different things we do in our protection." Houser, 33, is a former New Orleans Saints seventh-round draft pick from Ohio State. The 6-foot-2, 252-pounder spent eight years in New Orleans before being cut and spent last season with the Seattle Seahawks, ending the year on injured reserve.

Houser was released by New Orleans last year after being accused by former teammates and coach Sean Payton of encouraging them to buy $1.9 million in Louisiana state income tax credits never realized.

Payton and his wife as well as two players filed a civil lawsuit against Houser in March. They have alleged unfair trade practices and unjust enrichment.

At the time of the financial losses, Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey let out a rant on his Twitter account.

"thx houser our long snapper for losing my coaches, teamates, and me around 2mill$," Shockey wrote. "what a dumb ass."

The case is set to be heard in November 2011. "We really wanted a veteran," Harbaugh said. "Those guys understand the schemes and have done the techniques and he should be ready to plug right in."

Now, Houser has a lot to learn in a hurry. "Absolutely, I get to do preseason and regular season all in three days," Houser said. Creating chemistry and timing with Houser is the big priority for the week.

"Oh it is," Koch said. "It will be one of those things where we try to find a rhythm in the next few days. He can find his rhythm and then Billy can find his rhythm and we're all on the same page.

"He's been doing this for 11 years. He knows how to do it. We'll be working on timing it up so Billy feels comfortable."

COX HOPING TO BE BACK BY NEXT YEAR: After tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and suffering a third-degree sprained medial collateral ligament, Cox said he'll undergo surgery when the swelling subsides. "We're getting the MCL healed up as much as possible before they get to work in there," Cox said. "The more stuff we do on the front end the less time on the back end." Harbaugh said Cox is expected to return next season.

"It looks like it's something that he should be back for training camp and should be full-go then," Harbaugh said.

Cox said he didn't tear his meniscus. "Not that I know of, just the ACL MC," Cox said. "It's a long road, but I'm going to be back next year. The goal is August, if not before than that. "I'd like to get back to get into my routine for the season. It's tough. It's a long road, but I'll be better and stronger because of it."

SUGGS VOTED FOR BRADY: Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs fessed up, acknowledging that he put aside his feud with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady long enough to give him his vote to the Pro Bowl. Suggs has railed against Brady ever since losing to the Patriots earlier this season, suggesting that the NFL gives the former Most Valuable Player preferential treatment. "Let's go ahead and let the cat out of the bag: We did vote for him," Suggs said. "We've got quarrels and our beefs but you got to respect play. It was kind of decided as a unit who we vote for. We did vote for him." Suggs did issue one zinger, saying he hopes Brady gets to play in the Pro Bowl, which is scheduled before the Super Bowl.

"One of us is not going to get to play in the game," Suggs said. "I hope he has a good time in the Pro Bowl, and hopefully everything goes according to plan, I'll be watching him from Dallas."

Suggs was named to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time after turning in a resurgent season with 11 sacks.

"I said I wasn't going to have a season like I did last year, and I came back and made it to the Pro Bowl," Suggs said. "I'm still young. I just turned 28. I want to become one of the greatest. I'm just going to keep working at it and wherever I end up, I'll be satisfied." INJURY UPDATES: Tight end Todd Heap participated fully for the first time since pulling his right hamstring against the Pittsburgh Steelers and missing the past three games.

Center Matt Birk (knee), linebackers Tavares Gooden (dislocated left shoulder) and Prescott Burgess (illness) and safety Tom Zbikowski (bulging disc in back) didn't practice. Rookie wide receiver David Reed (concussion, wrist) was limited, but expects to play this week after sitting out against the Cleveland Browns. Reed said he took an impact test, which he believes he has passed.

"I feel a lot better," Reed said. "I'm ready to go, man. A week felt like a year." Reed said he sprained ligaments in his wrist. "That won't keep me out," he said. Also participating fully: wide receiver Derrick Mason (ankle, abdominals) and tight end Dennis Pitta (concussion).

Pitta said he has passed his impact test. "I feel normal," Pitta said. "I'm expecting to practice as much as I can this week and be ready to go Sunday."

Pitta has suffered two concussions this season, but doesn't think he'll be held out despite the NFL's renewed emphasis on safety regarding head injuries.

"There's always cause for concern when it is your second, and I think we're playing it smart," Pitta said. "It's one of those things where it wasn't too severe and so we don't have to be overly cautious about it, but we have to be smart with it this week. "I feel normal, I feel fine. I don't have any symptoms, and so it's just one of those things where I should be back and ready to go." Meanwhile, the following players didn't practice for the Bengals: tight end Jermaine Gresham (knee), cornerback Johnathan Joseph (ankle), receiver Chad Ochocinco (ankle), running back Bernard Scott (toe) and linebacker Dan Skuta (back).

REED HONORED: Free safety Ed Reed was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after intercepting two passes against the Cleveland Browns during a 20-10 win that stamped the Ravens' ticket to the postseason. Reed has won the award four times previously, but hadn't won it since the 2008 season. QUICK HITS: Harbaugh acknowledged that the Ravens will be monitoring the Pittsburgh Steelers' game against the Cleveland Browns. If the Browns upset the Steelers and Baltimore beats the Bengals, then the Ravens win the AFC North. "When the score comes up, I'm sure all of us are going to take a look," Harbaugh said. "We're going to know by the crowd's reaction. I don't have a problem with that. We're going to play the game. We'll have all focus on Cincinnati. It'll be interesting to see how that game plays out. The fact that we have a chance to accomplish something as far as playoff seedings, that's pretty important." Added middle linebacker Ray Lewis: "It's kind of hard not to watch it, but we understand we have to take care of our business. Whatever happens with Pittsburgh-Cleveland, happens." … Harbaugh said he would like to give backup quarterback Marc Bulger a chance to knock off the rust. To do so, the Ravens would need to build a comfortable lead against the Bengals. Cincinnati has defeated Baltimore three times in a row. "I've kind of wanted to do that all year," Harbaugh said. "We've just never been in a situation where we've been able to do that. But if we get in that situation, that's something we would always like to do."

… The Bengals returned roughly 400 tickets for Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium. They are available through TicketMaster.

… Selected as an alternate to the Pro Bowl, quarterback Joe Flacco said he's not worried about not making it to the game. "It didn't mean too much," Flacco said. "I think if you are a Pro Bowl guy, you are. Like you said, an alternate is an alternate. I'm not really worried about that. . If the Pro Bowl comes, it comes. If it doesn't, I'm not really too worried about it. I'm not motivated by making the Pro Bowl. No. I'm motivated by winning football games and knowing that I can look at myself in the mirror and I can look at my team and know that I played well." … Running back Ray Rice grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y., and embraces playing in cold weather. "I like it," he said. "I like it because it sets up a mentality. You know what you're going to get, especially if there's a situation out there with the weather, you know the running backs are going to be able to run the ball. I think our football team, especially our offense, will be ready for those situations

Ravens Insider Top Stories