Ravens reward Gregg with a five-year extension

OWINGS MILLS -- Rewarding a blue-collar player with a white-collar salary, the Baltimore Ravens signed nose tackle Kelly Gregg to a five-year contract extension. Gregg's grit and uncommon production earned him a pact believed to include a $2 million signing bonus and an average annual base salary of $1.5 to $1.6 million. His salary for this season was $375,000, according to NFL Players Association figures.

In his second season as a starter, Gregg finished fourth on the defense with 104 tackles along with three sacks. He was credited with 10 tackles during Sunday night's 13-10 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. "It's great for the Ravens because we get a heck of a player locked up for five years," said defensive line coach Rex Ryan, who coached Gregg at the University of Oklahoma. "Obviously, Kelly is a big part of what we do defensively." 

At 6-foot and 310 pounds, Gregg isn't imposing in stature, but qualifies as one of the strongest Ravens with a 500-pound bench press. A former heavyweight wrestling champion, Gregg brings leverage and technique to a meat-grinder position. Gregg was going to become a restricted free agent after the season. "We had some cap room that we wanted to use it or lose it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "My feelings for Kelly are well-documented about what a great player he is. That's a tough, nasty, dirty position where it's hard to get recognized. "We're thrilled that he's going to be with us for a while." 

Ryan said the Edmond, Okla., native is unlikely to change his lifestyle, noting that Gregg still parks his Pontiac Grand Prix in a players' lot filled with Mercedes-Benzes and Cadillac Escalades. "We're going to ride him about being a big-money guy now," Ryan said. "I don't know if he'll be allowed in the meeting room or not." 

INJURY UPDATE: Punter Dave Zastudil was diagnosed with a broken nose and a mild concussion during the first half against the Steelers. Zastudil said he expects to be available for Saturday's AFC wild-card playoff against the Tennessee Titans. He returned to the game despite bleeding and dizziness, but was replaced by rookie quarterback Kyle Boller for one 29-yard punt. "I went to make a tackle and I got hit in the nose," Zastudil said. "I really don't remember much." 

Billick said Boller was surprised at the situation after not having punted since his days at Hart High School in Southern California. "At halftime, we were told that David was a little woozy, thought the nose was broken, blood was everywhere," Billick said. "We knew that Kyle had punted and his tryout was, 'Have you punted?' He goes, 'In high school.' You're it."

 Zastudil was able to reassume punting duties. Meanwhile, Billick acknowledged that outside linebacker Peter Boulware probably couldn't have played with a sprained knee even if the game had carried playoff implications. Boulware' knee has been drained to reduce swelling, and Billick offered a "fairly optimistic" prognosis for availability against Tennessee. Running back Chester Taylor didn't return after spraining his knee. Casey Rabach started for Bennie Anderson (knee) at right guard. 

WELL-WISHERS: Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has been embroiled in a noisy feud with Steelers linebacker Joey Porter with the two arguing during the pregame coin toss. Lewis said both Porter and Steelers coach Bill Cowher congratulated him afterward. "If you don't have that type of emotion that Joey Porter has and that I have, then the game isn't football," Lewis said. "After the game, he came over and all he said was, 'Represent our division well.' It's just football. Once we leave the field, act like men." Porter was assessed a personal foul in overtime that set up Matt Stover's game-winning field goal. "He's not going to back down and I'm not going to back down," Porter said. "You have two pitbulls in the ring ready to lock up at any time." 

QUICK HITS: Baltimore finished the season ranked 21st in total offense, first in rushing and last in passing. The Ravens' defense is ranked third overall, sixth against the run, fourth against the pass. ... The Titans have the eight-ranked offense, the No. 26 running game and the fifth-best passing game. Tennessee (12-4) is 12th in total defense with the top-ranked rush defense and the No. 30 pass defense. ... The Ravens sold out 7,000 playoff tickets within 20 minutes Monday morning. ... To produce a stadium record crowd of 70,001, the Ravens sold additional seating in their luxury suites for the game. 

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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