Billick: Heap will return this season

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap remains on track to return this season from a severely sprained ankle that will force him out for his seventh consecutive game Sunday against the New York Jets, according to coach Brian Billick.

Fifty-three days after Heap was injured in the second game of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Billick revealed Thursday that trainer Bill Tessendorf's prognosis is that the injury requires between 50 and 70 days to recover fully.

"Based on everything we've done, with multiple specialists, multiple imaging, we're on the course that should bring him back to us," said Billick, who didn't indicate a specific timetable. "I'm not a doctor. We've had enough professional people look at it that we don't think it will be an issue."

ENTRENCHED: There will be no changing of the guard at center, where Casey Rabach has excelled, even though former starter Mike Flynn has recovered from a broken collarbone.

Flynn missed the first seven games and will continue to rotate with right guard Bennie Anderson.

"It's frustrating for Mike, but Casey's been playing very, very well," Billick said. "To make that change right now probably wouldn't be prudent. It's tough on Mike.

"Mike's done nothing to not be the starting center, but we've got a little bit of flow with Casey. Mike's a good football player. It's tough, but I think Mike recognizes it's the prudent thing to do right now."

NICKEL BACKUPS: With nickel back Deion Sanders questionable with a strained left toe that has him limping around with an electronic-stem device attached to stimulate healing, Billick indicated the Ravens would likely insert Corey Fuller and Ray Walls. Sanders, 37, hasn't practiced all week.

BAITED: Following offensive tackle Orlando Brown's latest losing bout with his legendary temper, which resulted in a personal foul late in the fourth quarter during a win over Cleveland, it's likely that opponents will continue to instigate to try to get him to retaliate.

"Sure they do, and at some point Orlando's going to get tired of getting punked," Billick said.

NO GUARANTEES: The Ravens (5-3) trail the Pittsburgh Steelers by two games in the AFC North, and duplicating their first-half victory total may not ensure a second consecutive playoff berth.

"Who knows?" Billick said. "A 10-win team was out of the playoffs last year. It's too early to know. Ten wins isn't going to guarantee anything."

QUOTABLE: Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis on Jets rookie linebacker Jonathan Vilma, a fellow University of Miami football alum: "I've known him since he's been in college. It was always that I would help him and tell him what to do. A lot of people said that he was small, and they said that, too, when I came out. This guy is really energetic and I love watching him play."

QUICK HITS: Safety Ed Reed's 106-yard interception return against the Cleveland Browns won NFL Play of the Week. … Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (hamstring, questionable) said he still feels the same and it's highly unlikely he'll return this week. ... The Jets upgraded defensive end Shaun Ellis (groin) from questionable to probable and took linebacker Sam Cowart (knee) and cornerback Derrick Strait (foot) off the injured list. … Offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo, Heap and cornerback Chris McAlister will help refurbish a home in Sandtown on Tuesday and the team will present Habitat for Humanity with a check for $25,000. … The Ravens are auctioning off black jerseys worn by various players on Ebay beginning Thursday night, Nov. 18 and Nov. 25, with proceeds going to charity.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times and


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