Ravens' depth bolstered by improved health

OWINGS MILLS - The Baltimore Ravens' dwindling depth at cornerback and receiver had almost reached a critical mass because of medical reasons. Baltimore had only three receivers available for its 34-15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Plus, diminutive return specialist Lamont Brightful made his initial appearance in the nickel package.

Now, both units appear bolstered heading into Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns. Barring setbacks, cornerbacks Tom Knight and Alvin Porter and starting receiver Frank Sanders are expected to return. Knight strained his hamstring last month after missing all of last year when he tore his opposite hamstring. He's listed as questionable on the injury report. "I haven't had any twinges and I feel good," Knight said. "Rust is always an issue when you haven't been out there, but I can run without any problems. If all goes right, I'll be in the nickel package and ready for all situations."

 Sanders dislocated two toes in his right foot in the first preseason game and didn't play against Pittsburgh. Doubtful a week ago, he has been upgraded to questionable. "I think that he can help a great deal and I believe that he will be back this week," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. Porter has been out with a strained groin and is listed as questionable.

Starting cornerback Corey Fuller, who incurred a strained quadriceps against Pittsburgh, is listed as questionable and didn't practice Wednesday. However, Fuller said there's no way he won't be available against Cleveland, which released him this winter in a cost-cutting move. "My heart told me to play," Fuller said. "I've had worse injuries than this." Running back Musa Smith (knee) is out while center Casey Rabach (knee) and punter Dave Zastudil (hamstring) are listed as probable. 

PREDICTION: When asked about the prospect of one of these teams dropping to 0-2 with a loss Sunday, running back Jamal Lewis said, "Oh, yeah, it won't be us. We'll go out this week and get everything together and get it running against Cleveland." 

TURNING THE PAGE: Linebacker Ray Lewis attempted to defuse a running feud with Steelers linebacker Joey Porter that extended after the football game. Published reports indicated that Lewis and Porter had to be separated by a coach and a police officer hours after exchanging words on the field. Porter missed the game with a gunshot wound and loudly complained that Lewis was mocking him. "Joey Porter, I'm sorry; as a man I'm so sorry," Lewis said. "I was never intending to talk to him in any form or fashion negatively. I said you're in my prayers. "It's just a miscommunication of intensity. There's no need for me to carry it on. I don't walk around in life having feuds with people. I hit people on the football field." 

SURGERY UPCOMING: Wide receiver Randy Hymes said he'll undergo surgery to repair his ruptured anterior cruciate ligament early next week. Hymes was placed on injured reserve after suffering the injury in the final preseason game when a New York Giants player's helmet struck his leg. The former Grambling quarterback was projected to play extensively, especially in red-zone situations. "I'm devastated," Hymes said. "I've never had an injury like this before. It's tough because I should be out there." 

QUOTABLE: Ravens tight end Todd Heap on the intensity of the Browns' series: "Just ask Art Modell about this rivalry. It's huge for our organization. There's not a lot of love lost between these two teams." 

QUICK HIT: The Browns list defensive end Courtney Brown (foot) and wide receiver Quincy Morgan (hip) as probable. 

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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