Ravens' return game battle heating up

In the latest installment of the Baltimore Ravens' return-game saga, rookie cornerback Lance Frazier has officially impressed coach Brian Billick.

His NFL debut as a punt returner in the Ravens' 26-17 loss Friday night to the Philadelphia Eagles produced a 10.3 average on three returns. Most important, though, the undrafted free agent held on to the football.

"Frazier seemed very solid in the punt returns and very sure of himself back there," Billick said. "It was good to see that because he's been that way in training camp: very solid."

Frazier averaged 20.9 yards per punt return as a senior at West Virginia, returning one 72 yards for a touchdown. His worst moment against Philadelphia came when he ran into his blockers, colliding with his wedge and landing flat on his back.

"The first time I got back there, I was kind of nervous," Frazier said. "My main focus was catching the ball and trying to average 10 yards.

"When I fell down, I definitely didn't expect that. I was surprised I held on to the ball. I just showed them I can take a lick and hold on to it."

Incumbent Lamont Brightful was limited to kickoffs, returning three for 66 yards.

Brightful is having fumbling issues, losing one against the Atlanta Falcons a week ago.

The Ravens drafted Derek Abney in the seventh round to challenge Brightful, but he has an injured shoulder and is out indefinitely.

Plus, the team has auditioned B.J. Sams, who might return soon from his broken thumb.. Kareem Kelly returned three kickoffs for 47 yards against Philadelphia.

When asked about his status, Brightful said: "You would have to ask the coaches about that. They show me what they want me to do and I just play what they want me to play."

UP AND DOWN: Quarterback Kyle Boller drew mixed reviews from the coaching staff.

The second-year starter completed 10 of 20 passes for 97 yards, no scores and an interception he short-armed in the general direction of tight end Daniel Wilcox.

"Good and bad," Billick said of Boller, who posted a 43.1 quarterback rating. "Some real good things and a couple of stupid things. The interception was the same interception he threw in Cleveland last year. He's got two behind him now, so hopefully we won't see that again." RUNNING HARD: Running back Musa Smith gained a game-high 80 yards on 14 carries, pounding the Eagles' defenders.

It marked Smith's most extensive and successful action with the Ravens since being drafted in the third round out of Georgia last year.

Along with Chester Taylor, Smith would be counted on more heavily if Pro Bowl runner Jamal Lewis becomes unavailable when his federal drug conspiracy trial in Atlanta begins Nov. 1.

"That was one of the good things," said Billick, whose team combined for 196 rushing yards on 34 carries. "We really put Musa's hand in the fire, so to speak, and we talked about wanting to get that done. It was exciting to see how tough and hard Musa ran."

EXCESSIVE CELEBRATION: Following safety Ed Reed's interception of Donovan McNabb and crisp lateral to Will Demps for a touchdown, the Ravens were flagged 15 yards for excessive celebration.

J.R. Reed returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown.

"I don't know what actually happened," Billick said. "My guess is that I'm going to see a bunch of guys excited about a score. If that's what they want to cut out as a league, then we'll address that. They swear that they didn't, but you know how that goes."

Both Reed and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis denied overdoing it.

Lewis said he merely looked at Reed to acknowledge the interception and score.

"I don't know how you can control us from playing football," Reed said. "It's just football. They've put a lot of restrictions on it, which is cool because it's the rules. You have to live and die by the rules."

QUICK HITS: Rookie outside linebacker Roderick Green, the team's fifth-round draft pick from Central Missouri, recorded a sack, as did reserve safety Chad Williams. … Nose guard Kelly Gregg led the Ravens with five tackles against his former team. … Wilcox caught two passes for 23 yards in a continuation of his bid to be the third tight end.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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