Raven' Boller upgraded to probable

OWINGS MILLS — Increasing the likelihood that rookie quarterback Kyle Boller won't be hindered by a sprained left shoulder, the Baltimore Ravens upgraded his status from questionable to probable on the injury report.

The injury to Boller's non-throwing shoulder has responded well to treatment. The first-round draft pick has taken the majority of the repetitions with the first offense, making it almost certain that he'll start Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

"He looked good," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He took almost all of the snaps. He was fine."

Meanwhile, nickel back Tom Knight was downgraded from questionable to doubtful, giving him a 25-percent chance of playing against the Broncos. Knight emphasized that this is a slightly different groin pull than previous ones, but he was no less flustered about his oft-injured status.

"I feel better, but it's equally frustrating," Knight said. "I'm not sure what's going to happen. You would have to ask the medical people. I just want to get back on the field."

In Knight's absence, Will Demps would likely reassume his former role in the Ravens' nickel package. Demps was a starter as a rookie at free safety last season, but had lost playing time to Knight until the injury.

He lost his position with the first defense when the Ravens signed Corey Fuller to start at cornerback and shifted Gary Baxter from cornerback to free safety. Baltimore secondary coach Donnie Henderson also retains the option of moving Baxter to nickel back and having Demps play free safety against multiple receiver sets.

"If Tom can't play, I have to step up and contribute," said Demps, who has 18 tackles, three pass deflections and one forced fumble. "It's been like this all year. If anyone goes down, I'm always going to be ready."

Offensive tackle Orlando Brown was added to the injury report with a back ailment and the 6-foot-7, 360-pounder was listed as probable. Billick quipped that it stemmed from a bad mattress. Brown didn't cite the reason behind the injury, but stressed that he would definitely play.

The remainder of the Ravens' injuries include: offensive guard Bennie Anderson (shoulder), defensive back Gary Baxter (knee), wide receiver Ron Johnson (knee), running back Jamal Lewis (shoulder) and wide receiver Marcus Robinson (hamstring).

"I'm fine," said Anderson, who was replaced by Casey Rabach at right guard in the third quarter of Sunday's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. "I could have gone back in."

LEARNING THE PLAYBOOK: One week after participating in five snaps at wide receiver, Dedric Ward is preparing just in case he's called upon again.

Signed weeks ago as insurance behind return specialist Lamont Brightful, Ward can almost always be found studying his playbook in the locker room. Billick will ultimately make the decision on who will return kicks Sunday, a choice between Ward and Brightful that could be determined soon.

"I think my knowledge of the system is beginning to get there," Ward said. "It's come a long way since the first time they handed me this thick book and told me to learn it as quick as you can. I don't know when they want me to start returning kicks. That's up to the coaches, but I'm ready when they need me."

BANGED-UP: The Broncos have quite an injury list, comprised of 15 players.

They will be without quarterback Jake Plummer (broken foot), defensive end Bryant McNeal (lower back) and offensive tackle Ephraim Salaam (knee). Veteran quarterback Steve Beuerlein was placed on injured reserve this week with a broken pinkie finger.

Besides questionable listings for receivers Chris Cole (ankle) and Ed McCaffrey (knee), center Tom Nalen (ankle) was upgraded from questionable to probable.

The Broncos list the following players as probable: tight end Shannon Sharpe (knee), tight end Patrick Hape (concussion), defensive tackle Daryl Gardener (wrist), linebacker Keith Burns (knee), safety Nick Ferguson (knee), fullback Reuben Droughns (shoulder), defensive tackle Mario Fatahefi (knee) and cornerback Willie Middlebrooks (toe).

FOREWARNED: Ravens rookie outside linebacker Terrell Suggs hasn't had a sack in two contests.

Acting as a designated pass rusher, the first-round draft pick opened his career with four in his first four NFL games. Suggs said he's eager to generate a rush on former third-string quarterback Danny Kanell.

Suggs, 21, has also heard a few tales about the Broncos' blockers and will be watching out for cut-blocking to protect his knees.

"I heard they're dirty," Suggs said. "You got to be careful, but I'm mostly thinking about putting some heat on Kanell."

QUOTABLE: Billick on a Broncos' offense led by running back Clinton Portis: "Portis is a dynamic back, clearly one of the top two or three backs in the league. Probably the smartest, most veteran, talented receiving corps when you talk about a Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey, Shannon Sharpe, great speed with Ashley Lelie. That is a group that you have to account for."

QUICK HITS: Boller said he was a freshman in high school in California when Kanell was drafted in 1996 by the New York Giants out of Florida State. … The Ravens are tied for 14th in the AFC in turnover ratio with the Broncos. Both have minus-3 ratios.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times

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