Several Ravens playing for their future

OWINGS MILLS -- Although Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis' contract squabble has created the most controversy, he's not alone in his situation. A contract year tends to create anxiety about the future, especially with Baltimore (2-4) struggling in a season where it was expected to contend for the playoffs.

Besides Lewis, several Ravens are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in 2006, including: defensive end Tony Weaver, linebacker Tommy Polley, safety Will Demps, nose guard Maake Kemoeatu, running back Chester Taylor, punter Dave Zastudil, quarterback Anthony Wright, defensive backs Deion Sanders, Dale Carter and Chad Williams, receiver Randy Hymes, tight end Darnell Dinkins and linebacker Bart Scott.

Plus, Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed will be entering the final year of his original rookie deal.

"Every team -- good or bad -- has to deal with the mentality that a quarter of its workforce is having some uncertainty about their future," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It's more difficult under the current circumstances we are in at 2-4 and it's a lot easier to handle when you're doing well.

"How each individual reacts to it is something you have to deal with as a team because every one of them is going to deal with it in a different way. They are all out there busting their butts to make us a better team and, even in a self-serving way, to look as good as they can so they can secure their future going forward."

For Polley, a Baltimore native signed to a one-year deal after he drew no interest in free agency following a disappointing final season with the St. Louis Rams, it's a matter of proving himself.

"I don't worry about it," Polley said. "I worried about that last year and it got me on a one-year deal. I know as long as the team wins everybody gets rewarded at the end. Last year I didn't know how to deal with it. It's a tough situation. You can't describe it."

One day after Lewis complained about his contract and being blamed for a moribund offense, Billick attempted some damage control.

"There's a level of frustration, as there is with a quarter of my team about, ‘Geez, what is my future?'" Billick said, "He admittedly probably didn't verbalize that very well, but I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever about Jamal's commitment to winning, to perform well and his faith in his teammates.

"Anything outside of that, I don't know if those were his intentions to communicate. I hope our fans don't think ill of Jamal in that it wasn't verbalized really well."

JUST ANOTHER GAME: Ravens reserve quarterback Kordell Stewart, the former Steelers starter, isn't putting much sentiment into his return to Pittsburgh.

"It's another football game," Stewart said. "I've been gone for a long time. We're not going to put more emphasis on it."

Billick is hoping that Kyle Boller can be the backup this week.

"There's the possibility that he could be No. 2," Billick said. "More than likely, he will be third."
MARKED YELLOW: Terrell Suggs agreed with Billick's assessment that he's a marked man since his ejection for arguing with and bumping into an official. Suggs has been flagged twice for roughing the passer in the past three games, but took exception to being labeled out of control.

"I'm not the Ron Artest of football," Suggs said. "Don't you dare try to categorize me like that. I'm not a bad boy, nothing like that."

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: With veteran Alan Ricard on injured reserve, rookie fullback Justin Green will start his first NFL game Monday.

"It's a huge opportunity for him and I'm sure he's energized by it," Billick said.

QUICK HITS: There were no changes to the Ravens' injury report. Boller (doubtful, ankle), Ovie Mughelli (questionable, ankle) and receiver Mark Clayton (questionable, ankle) practiced but didn't participate in every drill. Clayton said he'll have a limited role Monday and will likely be a game-time decision. Weaver (questionable, toe) didn't practice … Billick had an amusing take on the Pittsburgh man sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $300 for pretending to be Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in his effort to date two women. "I think it was Ben personally," Billick said. "They're just hiding him. I think they ought to put Ben in jail. I think Hines Ward was with him."

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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