Ravens' Sanders throws down the gauntlet

OWINGS MILLS — Deion Sanders threw down the gauntlet.<br><br> During an ESPN interview with former Dallas Cowboys teammate Michael Irvin, the Baltimore Ravens' nickel back essentially dared Cleveland Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia to throw the football his way in Sunday's season-opener.<br><br> The seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback added that Garcia shouldn't challenge him deep unless he wanted to watch the 37-year-old's patented dance steps en route to the end zone.

"I don't think he called him out," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He just said, ‘Bring it on this way.' You've got to play with confidence now in that backfield.

"I'm sure now that he's with Baltimore saying that adds a whole new dimension to it. I'm sure it will probably be my fault somewhere down the line."

It figures to be a week of verbal assaults considering the history between these teams.

Former Cleveland players Kevin Johnson and Corey Fuller have already been in touch with Browns receiver Quincy Morgan.

"By him saying I dare you to throw it, we're not scared," Morgan told the Browns' Web site. "We're going to throw the ball. We're going to throw it at him.

"We're going to throw it at Chris McAlister. We're going to throw it at Gary Baxter."

Billick termed the Ravens' swagger as a matter of conviction, not arrogance.

The man known as "Prime Time" has 48 career interceptions and established an NFL mark with 18 touchdown returns, but hasn't played since the 2000 season. Baxter said his eyes lit up when he watched Sanders' proclamations on television.

"Man, that was fun to watch," Baxter said. "This secondary is too talented to not make plays. I don't expect them to shy away from anybody on our defense.

"I expect them to try us all. That's the way the game should flow. Throw down, Garcia, throw the nine on ‘Prime.' We can't wait."

TRAINING ROOM: All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden is likely to be listed as questionable when the team releases its first injury report today.

The seven-time Pro Bowl selection sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee last week.

"He moved around a little more," Billick said of Ogden's activity level Tuesday. "He was better today than he was yesterday. Hopefully, he'll be a lot better by week's end."

The Ravens expect both starting defensive ends, Tony Weaver and Marques Douglas, to start against the Browns.

Weaver has been nursing a high ankle sprain and Douglas is back sooner than expected from a dislocated elbow.

SAME EXPECTATIONS: Browns running back Lee Suggs is a question mark because of a neck stinger.

If he's unavailable, the Browns would turn to troubled former first-round pick William Green in tandem with James Jackson.

Suggs is a shiftier runner in comparison to Green, who's more of a power back.

"Although they're different styles of backs, to a degree, they don't run different plays with one or the other," Billick said. "They ask the same thing of both. I don't know from a preparation standpoint that their plans are going to change dramatically depending on the health of one or the other."

PRACTICE SQUAD: The Ravens established their eight-man practice squad, signing wide receiver Todd Devoe, cornerback Lance Frazier, offensive tackle Tony Pashos, offensive guard Brian Rimpf, tight end Brett Pierce, center Lenny Vandermade, wide receiver Freddie Milons and defensive lineman David Upchurch.

Other than Milons and Upchurch, who were cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, all of the players were in Baltimore's training camp. Milons is Alabama's all-time receptions leader, ranking behind Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome in receiving yardage.

RING OF HONOR: Retired defensive end Michael McCrary will be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor on Oct. 4. Chronic knee problems ended the prolific pass rusher's career.

QUOTABLE: When asked if there was any danger that his team would underestimate the Browns after sweeping them last season: "I don't know how you underestimate anybody in an opener because preseason doesn't mean squat. If you draw any conclusions from the preseason, you might as well go bet on World Wrestling Federation because you're going to lose your money on both."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

 


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