The Ravens tied the Chiefs with a league-high eight Pro Bowl selections. Yet, Baltimore is unlikely to have a MVP by this afternoon. According to a report in The Indianapolis Star that polled 29 of the 48 ballots that have been cast, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair are locked in a dead heat. The newspaper reported that Manning leads McNair, 10-9, with Jamal Lewis ranking third with four votes. Ray Lewis received two votes, tying him with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Kansas City running back Priest Holmes. "All of the credit goes to my teammates," said McNair, when asked about his MVP prospects. "They perform and put me in a special situation."
MAYORAL PROCLAMATION: Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley presented the team with a congratulatory proclamation for making the playoffs on Wednesday. He also sent an e-mail to city leaders that misspelled Jamal Lewis' first name, but also declared that City Hall and other government offices will display purple lights and banners. O'Malley loosened the employee dress code to allow purple clothes or Ravens attire on Fridays as long as the Ravens are in the postseason. "Baltimore shares more than a few kinships with its NFL team,"
O'Malley wrote. "Underrated but determined, our team, and our city are best epitomized by star running back Jamaal Lewis. A workhorse athlete who quietly strives to give his best under every circumstance, he is an exemplary player who, like his teammates, refuses to quit. "Hit and battered repeatedly week after week by opponents, Jamaal's legs never stopped moving, and his momentum in the face of adversity will continue to make headway, as he drags tacklers and naysayers forward with every advance. Rock and rule, Baltimore...all the way to Houston!"
INJURY UPDATE: The Ravens and Titans made no changes to their respective injury reports. Pro Bowl outside linebacker Peter Boulware remains questionable with a sprained knee that has been drained. One player not listed among the ailing is Baltimore punter Dave Zastudil who broke his nose and suffered a mild concussion making a tackle against the Steelers. Zastudil said doctors told him he might have hairline fractures in his nose and had considered wearing a different facemask or a protective visor, but opted not to make a change. "It just feels like a bad bruise now," Zastudil said. "I guess if they return a punt that far again, I deserve to take a hit like that. If I hit the ball better, it won't be a problem." Ravens coach Brian Billick said that rookie quarterback Kyle Boller, who uncorked a 29-yarder against the Steelers in his first punt since high school, will receive extra practice time.
BENGALS' BOSS VISITS: Former Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, the Cincinnati Bengals' head coach, visited the Ravens' training complex this week. The Bengals (8-8) dueled with the Ravens in a resurgent season engineered by the former Finksburg resident.
MODELL UPDATE: Ravens spokesman Chad Steele said that owner Art Modell is feeling better and plans to attend Saturday's AFC wild-card playoff against the Titans, where he'll be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor at halftime. A respiratory infection kept Modell away from the Ravens' 13-10 overtime win over the Steelers along with a scheduled ceremony for his final regular-season game as majority owner. Modell is selling control of the team to Maryland businessman and minority owner Steve Bisciotti.
WANTS TO RETURN: Offensive tackle Orlando Brown emphasized that he would like to re-sign with Baltimore after his one-year contract expires. The 33-year-old right tackle isn't certain what his future holds, though, if he becomes an unrestricted free agent. "I want to be here, I want to be close to my kids, but, right now, I could flip a coin as far as knowing what will happen," Brown said. "If they let me get on the market, there could be some pretty nice offers. People know what I can do."
QUOTABLE: In a conference call with Tennessee reporters, Billick joked about a Sports Illustrated poll that ranked him behind Steve Spurrier, the former Redskins and Florida Gators coach, as an enemy of the state's sports fans. "I am a little ticked off at you guys," Billick said. "Someone sent me a poll that was taken, and Steve Spurrier was the most hated coach and I was No. 2. I don't like being No. 2 in anything. Besides, what's Spurrier done lately?"
QUICK HITS: Jamal Lewis was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month, and Ray Lewis is the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. ... Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn's son, Jeremiah Washburn, is a Ravens player personnel assistant. ... Titans tight end Frank Wycheck and quarterback Neil O'Donnell are former University of Maryland standouts. ... The Ravens have a plus-3 turnover ratio. The Titans are plus-13. ... Curiously, Baltimore is 6-2 when it loses the coin toss. Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.