Ravens to be without Heap for next 2 to 4 weeks

OWINGS MILLS - One day after manufacturing a convincing win over their top rival, the Baltimore Ravens' offense is in a state of disrepair.<br><br> The situation following a 30-13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers: Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap crutching through the locker room Monday, out for two to four weeks, with his severely sprained right ankle immobilized in an air cast.

Which means a statistically-challenged passing game already without injured receiver Travis Taylor faces another crisis.

"I definitely don't want to miss any games or any snaps, but you deal with it and stay prepared, stay mentally into the game," said Heap, the Ravens' leading receiver with 12 receptions for 113 yards. "Hopefully, the other guys know exactly what's going on and are ready to step into some playing time."

Although X-rays revealed no fractures and it's not a high ankle sprain, Heap is unlikely to be available until Oct. 24 after the bye week when the team also hopes to get back center Mike Flynn, linebacker Peter Boulware and backup quarterback Anthony Wright.

Meanwhile, nickel back Deion Sanders is day-to-day with a strained hamstring. Ravens coach Brian Billick indicated it was more tightness, not a pull.

"Deion is Deion," trainer Bill Tessendorf said. "I don't know Deion well enough, but I don't think he's missed too many calls. It's not the first hamstring he's had."

Without Heap, a passing game that already ranks 30th in the league just lost its most dangerous downfield target. Heap often lines up at wide receiver and has rare speed and body control for a 6-foot-5, 252-pound tight end.

"It's huge," said Billick, who just got All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden back last week from a knee injury. "It's your No. 1 target, your No. 1 receiver. It affects us clearly. It puts more pressure on the outside receivers.

"Dan Wilcox can do some of the things that Todd Heap does. We won't get forced out of too many things, but you're talking about a promising, young tight end vs. a two-time Pro Bowler. Terry Jones has been very solid for us. Clearly, we have to adapt a little bit."

Jones represents a strong blocking presence and decent hands without much ability to stretch the field vertically. He has one catch for 11 yards.

Wilcox is more of an H-back type who played wide receiver in college. He has caught three passes for 22 yards.

"You never want to see anyone get hurt, and me and Daniel have to hold down the fort until Todd gets back," said Jones, who caught 19 passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns last season. "I know me and Todd are two different players. I know they're not going to do the same type of plays they do with Todd. Hopefully, I will still get the opportunities that Todd gets in a different way."

Heap sprained his ankle when his leg got caught underneath Steelers linebacker James Farrior late in the first half.

"I was definitely worried about ankle, knee, everything," Heap said. "It was a scary way to go out."

Heap hobbled on one foot to the line so quarterback Kyle Boller could spike the ball and was roughly shoved to the ground by Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter. Called an unprintable expletive afterward by cornerback Chris McAlister, Porter said he wanted to make sure Heap wasn't faking an injury.

"I don't feel like I need to talk about Joey Porter or anything that happened," Heap said. "We'll save that for another time and another game."

Tessendorf held out some hope that Heap could recover sooner than projected depending upon swelling. It's the same ankle Heap sprained during his rookie season in 2002.

"Miracles happen, but it's very doubtful at this point," Tessendorf said. "It's swollen. It's tender. It's sore."

The Ravens travel to the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday and play the Kansas City Chiefs in a Monday night game the following week before the bye.

"After we get back from the bye week, barring any injuries, we'll get everybody back all together," Heap said. "If we can make it to that point and do well with wins and losses, we'll be ahead of the game."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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