Ravens Notebook

Ravens notebook: Grubbs questionable, Evans out, Ngata probable

Baltimore Ravens offensive guard Ben Grubbs practiced for the third day in a row without a setback, albeit on a limited basis all week. He's still regarded as a game-time decision for Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers due to a right turf toe that has sidelined him since the season opener. Grubb is listed as questionable.

"It hasn't been full practice, so I think it's a process," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It's a plus that he's done a little more this week than he has in the past. We haven't had him out her full speed really yet. I'm hoping. We have our fingers crossed, we have for a few weeks. It's better than it has been, we'll just have to see."

If Grubbs is sidelined for the seventh game in a row, Andre Gurode will start in his place. "I made it through three practices and I'm still walking, so that's a blessing," Grubbs said. "Really, I wouldn't say it's a game-time decision. It's up to the coaches, whatever they decide. I know they want me out there and I want to be out there, but the last thing I want to do is hurt the team.

"‘Dre has been doing a great job, and we've been winning with him. I don't want to give a definite answer on anything. I really won't know until game time."

All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (hamstring) returned to practice Friday on a limited basis after missing the previous two days and is set to play Sunday night. He's listed as probable. "I'll feel good about it Sunday if he's playing, that's when you feel good about it," Harbaugh said. "He did more today. It's nothing real serious. He's fighting through it. It's kind of a midseason kind of deal."

Meanwhile, the Ravens ruled out wide receiver Lee Evans (left ankle) and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring, groin).

Harbaugh said Evans won't be placed on injured reserve and expressed optimism that he might return in a few weeks. Evans didn't practice all week and isn't expected to play Sunday. "We have not considered that because we are confident he'll be out in the next few weeks and be able to play," Harbaugh said. "He's making good progress on the leg. He should play for us before too long." Acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Bills for a fourth-round draft pick, Evans has caught only two passes for 45 yards and has been sidelined since playing in the first two games of the season.

Evans said there was some concern that it was headed toward a stress fracture if he had continued to play on it. "Possibly, possibly," Evans said. "The biggest thing is to try to contain it, let it heal up. It's just a lower leg injury." Evans said going on injured reserve has never been discussed.

"We had never talked about it, but it's reassuring that they still on for playing with it," Evans said. "I think where we are now, we're certainly a lot better, and hopefully hear soon that (I'll) be up."

Evans said he's making progress on a weekly basis. "Absolutely," he said. "I think that's what's giving everybody optimism." Referencing his quote comparing getting over the hump of his injury to losing the last five pounds on a diet, Evans said: "It's getting closer. I'm under the five now. It's very frustrating. I really haven't dealt with injuries much of my career. This is new territory for me, but it's part of it."

Also questionable for Baltimore: kick returner David Reed (knee, ankle), rookie running back Anthony Allen (hamstring) and rookie cornerback Chykie Brown (knee). Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk (neck) and cornerback Danny Gorrer (hamstring) are probable. WOODLEY RULED OUT: The Steelers ruled out Pro Bowl outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley due to a strained hamstring. He leads the Steelers with nine sacks. Outside linebacker James Harrison (broken orbital bone) is expected to return provided he passes a doctor's exam Saturday. He'll wear a protective visor on his helmet. Harrison was upgraded to full participation Friday.

Inside linebacker James Farrior (torn calf) is questionable and has been limited all week. Wide receiver Hines Ward (ankle) is questionable and was limited, but is slated to start. Ward told Pittsburgh reporters he had no intentions of being out this week after being sidelined against the New England Patriots.

"I wouldn't miss this for the world," he said. "I think you have to play in this rivalry for a while to understand it. You have to understand the magnitude of it, what it means. "They whipped our butt the first game. There's nothing we can really do about that. Now, we get a chance Sunday night in Heinz Field." The Steelers ruled out wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (knee) and offensive guard Doug Legursky (toe). Jerricho Cotchery will take over Sanders' workload as the third receiver. Sanders is unlikely to play since his mother died and he's been out of town. Offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (ankle) is probable.

DEFENDING D. REED: The Ravens stand behind David Reed as their kick returner even though he hasn't had a long return since his 77-yard effort against the Tennessee Titans in the second game. He returned recently from a shoulder injury, and is now dealing with knee and ankle ailments. The Ravens, though, feel that Reed is on the verge of regaining his old form.

"You can look at the stats and see that he's not, but he's close," special teams coordinator Kerry Rosburg said. "But more than that, we're looking at the whole unit rather than just David. The results of David's returns are a product of what happens up front. And when there are guys in the hole and he's trying to make somebody miss and it's not clean, there's all kinds of things that go into it.

"David has been back and forth with injuries, and I think he's now getting into the swing of things. I'm anxious for him to get another opportunity and go make something happen because in that particular phase, he can be a difference maker. We love the way he runs the ball, he has a passion for it, he's been an explosive player, and that would be very valuable this week." Reed was disappointed to average only 21.3 yards on four kickoff returns during the Ravens' win over the Arizona Cardinals.

"It was just bad, it was bad for me," Reed said. "I didn't do that good. I was not happy with my performance at all."

Reed ranks fourth in the NFL with a 29.2 kickoff return average, just off his league-best 29.3 average last season as a rookie where he set a franchise record with a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Houston Texans. The Ravens are sticking with Reed ahead of Bryan McCann and LaQuan Williams.

"This league, every week there's new players getting opportunities," Rosburg said. "Whatever David does, David does. And he knows it just like every other player out there, that there are other players that want to do what they do. So, there's no less pressure. There's no more pressure on David to perform every week. He knows that, he understands that. He's practicing that way, and he's playing that way as well."

CHOP BLOCKS: Offensive guard Marshal Yanda said he wasn't offended when the Steelers accused the Ravens' offensive line of using illegal chop blocks during a 35-7 win to start the season. The Ravens weren't fined or penalized for cut blocking the Steelers, including beefy nose guard Casey Hampton.

"The last game, I was cut blocking him, not chop blocking him," Yanda said. "As long as you're next to him and only one man removed and the center is engaged with him, I can cut him. If Matt Birk just held him up and I knifed him, that would be a chop.

"Not many people had known the rules, but they were explained to us at training camp. We had a demonstration. If I would have been fined or got a penalty, then we were doing something wrong. Maybe they'll change the rule. It is a little dangerous."

Regardless of the rules, blocking Hampton is literally a hefty task. He's one of the stoutest nose guards in the league.

"Hampton is a big guy, he's tough to move," Yanda said. "He eats up guards and centers really easy. He's been a great player. He's tough to block, plain and simple."

DEBATE: Following a recent appearance on ESPN where he debated commentator Skip Bayless about the merits of quarterback Joe Flacco, Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs made some sarcastic remarks about him this week. Asked about Bayless' prediction that the Ravens beat Pittsburgh earlier this season because it was treated like their Super Bowl and won't be able to duplicate that showing, Suggs replied: "Skip Bayless is a genius. He's got the IQ of 172. I think he got his doctorate from MIT, so you know especially coming from a guy that was a Hall of Famer in the football league, we should definitely take what he says and learn from it. For those that aren't geniuses, we know there's wins and losses, and we won the first game and all that matters is we got that first win and we're going to go and try to get that second one."

QUICK HITS: The Ravens rushed for 170 yards against the Steelers in the first meeting. "I think it's always important to get the running game going," Harbaugh said. "You always want to be able to do that because it makes you multi-dimensional. It's easier said than done against a defense like Pittsburgh's, but it's something that we're going to try to do." ... The Ravens brought in lefty punter Dave Brytus for a one-day tryout to prepare for Steelers lefty punter Daniel Sepulveda. ... Free safety Ed Reed's high-wire act on special teams won't be interrupted by the coaching staff. Rosburg said he had no problem with Reed diving into a crowd of Cardinals last week to down the football despite the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year risking potential turnover. "That particular play, obviously Ed was just playing it out and the whistle was at the end of the play," Rosburg said. "And it's just one of those things, Ed's looking for somebody to touch the ball and then him make a play off of it. So, that's why he was doing what he was doing."

The Steelers' offensive line is headlined by one of the top young centers in the game in Maurkice Pouncey, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. "He's really good," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "Plus, the other thing is, he makes a lot of their calls for them. So, he gets them in the right protection. From an athletic standpoint and a mental standpoint, he's really good." ... The Ravens brought in lefty punter Dave Brytus to prepare for Steelers lefty punter Daniel Sepulveda.

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