Ravens notebook: One banged-up defense

OWINGS MILLS -- The major strength of the last-place Baltimore Ravens is having the second-ranked defense in the NFL, but that resolve is about to be severely tested due to multiple injuries. With middle linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed already sidelined, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs might not be available against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday because of a thigh injury.

"He's a real concern," Ravens coach Brian Billick said Friday of the Pro Bowl pass rusher who's likely to be a game-time decision.

Suggs vowed that he'll play no matter what even though he was limited in practice all week and is listed as questionable.

"I'm going to go," Suggs said. "If I wake up Sunday morning, I'm playing. The only thing that's going to keep me out is death.

"Yeah, I'm in a lot of pain, but this is professional football. I'm definitely going to play. They need me out there."

If Suggs can't play, the Ravens could start defensive end Jarret Johnson in his place. It's probable that Johnson would play on first and second down with Roderick Green rushing the passer on third downs.

Defensive end Tony Weaver has nearly regained his full capabilities, which should bolster a shorthanded unit.
For the Ravens (2-6), though, Suggs' condition isn't the only medical setback.

The secondary has been thinned by injuries as safety B.J. Ward (thigh) was declared out Friday and nickel back Dale Carter was downgraded to doubtful with a hamstring injury.

That leaves Baltimore with only two healthy safeties in starters Will Demps and Chad Williams. Carter took snaps at safety last week, and it's possible that 38-year-old cornerback Deion Sanders might have to play safety against Jacksonville.

The Ravens have the fourth-ranked pass defense in the league, allowing only 163.5 passing yards per game and nine touchdown catches.

As of Friday afternoon's transaction deadline, the Ravens hadn't made any promotions from their practice squad to fill the gap. They have three defensive backs on the practice squad and a Saturday roster move remains a possibility.

Bart Scott has started the last two games at outside linebacker and has considerable experience at dime back (sixth defensive back). His versatility on third down could help the Ravens get through this week.

"We're in the part of the season where there are bumps, bruises and injuries," Billick said. "We'll have to move some people around. Dale being at safety was a big part of what we wanted to do last week and then we lost him early in the game. So, that really stretches you."
UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: In the midst of an underachieving campaign where the futures of quarterback Kyle Boller and Billick are being openly debated around the league, Billick said he remains focused on the task at hand.

"We're going to play for three hours against Jacksonville and hopefully we can look good," Billick said. "We're going to take that approach to seven games after that and see how far we can go with it. Everybody is being evaluated, both for now and the future."
JAGUARS' NEMESIS: Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle has built quite a reputation for hindering the Jaguars' cause.

Eight of his 23 career interceptions have come against Jacksonville. He once knocked out former quarterback Mark Brunell. Plus, he intercepted five passes against the Jaguars in 1999 to help boost the Tennessee Titans into the Super Bowl.

"It's always fun to go against Jacksonville," Rolle said.

NO FINE: Cornerback Chris McAlister will not be fined by the NFL for critizing officials following the Ravens' 21-9 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, according to a league spokesman.

"They should take away these guys' stripes," McAlister griped afterward. "They never played the game. You shouldn't let them call it. It's hard to play against the refs, too. It has been the saga of our season."

QUICK HITS: The Jaguars ruled out running back Fred Taylor (ankle) and will likely start Greg Jones and also play LaBrandon Toefield. … Running back Chester Taylor missed his second practice in a row for personal reasons, but is expected to make the trip. … The game won't be blacked out on television in Jacksonville after a last-minute surge in ticket sales. Owner Wayne Weaver reduced the capacity at Alltel Stadium by 10,000 seats in the offseason to avoid that problem. … With 49 receptions, Derrick Mason is on pace for 98 catches to shatter the team's single-season record of 76 established by Michael Jackson in 1996.
 


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