Preseason finale not meaningless for Ravens

OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap wants to kick the tires and test drive his surgically repaired shoulder. Running back Jamal Lewis is slated to make his debut after an offseason spent incarcerated for a federal drug sentence and rehabbing his right ankle. Former All-Pro linebacker Peter Boulware is eager to regain his pass rushing form after not playing football for 20 months.

And third-year quarterback Kyle Boller would love to prove he's better than his meager statistics and erase doubts about his competency to lead a team that appears otherwise set for a playoff run.

Although preseason finales are typically meaningless, tonight's contest against the Washington Redskins (1-2) at M&T Bank Stadium doesn't carry that feeling for the Ravens (1-2). Especially for several starters like Heap who haven't been tested in a game.

"It's time to get going and really get that feeling back and get ready to play," said Heap, who predicted he'll be able to handle a full load in the Sept. 11 season opener against the Colts. "It's been a while since I've been out there and watching the guys has been somewhat frustrating. I'm not going to be thinking about being careful on the field. The only thing that's going through my head is the plays and what I need to do."

Meanwhile, Lewis remains a question mark because of a nagging bone spur in his right foot, an injury the Ravens said is unrelated to his surgery. Lewis has said he won't put himself at risk and might not play until Sept. 11.

"It's a matter of working through the pain," said Ravens coach Brian Billick, who hopes to get Lewis four or five carries. "I was very pleased with how he came back with the pop and the speed."

Boulware, who missed all of last season with knee and toe injuries, hasn't played in a game since Dec. 21, 2003. He's expected to play mostly on third downs as a situational pass rusher and could see 10 to 15 plays.

"I've got some rust, but I feel pretty good," Boulware said. "There are things you take for granted playing football like getting in the stance, taking off, hand placement and footwork. They become second nature, but when you don't do it for a while you have to relearn and retrain your body. Realistically, I think I can go full-tilt and be a dominant player in this role."

Under constant harassment because of shoddy pass protection, Boller has a rough preseason that has included five turnovers, numerous botched reads, issues with his mechanics and a heavy dose of criticism.

This is his final dress rehearsal to try to iron out the problems of a passing game that ranked 31st a year ago. He'll play about one quarter.

"Offensively, we want to be efficient," Boller said "It's a great opportunity any time you get a game situation to go out and try to execute and move the ball and get points on the board."

Gaining bragging rights against the Redskins ranks at the bottom of the Ravens' priority list There's a host of players vying for a handful of roster spots as the team will spend Friday shaving its roster to 53 players.

"First and foremost, we have got to get a good look at some players," Billick said. "This is our last chance. We don't want to let a good player leave here.

"We need to get some good players some playing time: Todd Heap, Jamal Lewis if possible, and Peter Boulware. Finally, we need to get ourselves ready for the opener."

That has been Billick's top concern, who noted that his office computer is focused on preparing for the Colts.

There's also the desire to escape unscathed by injuries one year after offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden sprained his knee against the New York Giants to end the preseason.

"I hate this time of year," Billick said. "I hate the last preseason game. I hate anything that gets between me and the regular season."

NOTES: Fullback Alan Ricard (calf) will be a game-time decision. … Offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo will start after missing two games because of his father's death. … Cornerback Samari Rolle (knee) and nickel back Deion Sanders (hamstring) won't play. … Nickel back Dale Carter (back spasms) feels better and is expected to start. "I'm still getting in football shape," Carter said. …It was a boisterous locker room Wednesday. Ray Lewis played Sanders' music video, ‘Must be the Money,' on his portable DVD player as Chris McAlister danced to the old-school beat. Rolle displayed an old picture of Sanders when he sported a Jheri curl. "Prime called me little Dave Chapelle," Rolle said. "I think he looked like that old rapper, Kurtis Blow." … The Ravens re-signed undrafted rookie cornerback Bill Alford, who was cut earlier this week.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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