Notebook: Ivy demonstrates his mettle

BALTIMORE -- Nearly two months ago, Corey Ivy was in a Pittsburgh hospital with doctors forecasting that he wouldn't play football again this season.

After Ivy lacerated his kidney against the Denver Broncos, the team charter flight made an emergency landing in Pittsburgh in the early-morning hours of Oct. 10. Ivy wound up missing the next three games prior to returning to action two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans.

Now, the diminutive Baltimore Ravens cornerback has fully recovered from his medical crisis. He demonstrated his resiliency and toughness in a 27-0 victory Sunday over the Pittsburgh Steelers with a fumble-forcing sack of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that turned into a 57-yard touchdown return by linebacker Adalius Thomas.

"I'm just grateful to be out there playing the sport that I love," Ivy said. "It's kind of scary at first, but I was able to overcome that. I'm healthy now, thanks to the good doctors in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. I'm really grateful to be back out there."

Added Ravens coach Brian Billick: "I don't know that I've ever been around a tougher player than Corey Ivy."

Plus, Ivy intercepted a Roethlisberger pass to contribute to a lopsided win.

Ivy's performance and speedy recovery has defied Pittsburgh medical officials' prognosis, prompting jokes that the doctor must have been a Steelers fan.

"Actually when I was in Pittsburgh, the doctors told me that I might have to sit out this year," Ivy said. "I immediately called the athletic trainer back here in Baltimore, who said, ‘Don't listen to them, it'll probably be four to six weeks.'"

As the Ravens' nickel back, the 5-foot-9, 188-pound Ivy doubles as a special-teams standout. He has impressed teammates with his willingness to tackle.

"Corey Ivy is a warrior," Thomas said. "He's a dog. He has a pit-bull mentality and he fits right into our defense."

Known for his scrappiness that helps him overcome a lack of ideal size and speed, Ivy was signed in March after a stint with the St. Louis Rams.

"He's just a tough, little guy," said defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who coached Ivy at the University of Oklahoma. "He's one of the toughest cats in the league. He's a bulldog out there."

Ivy also helped contain Steelers star wide receiver Hines Ward, limiting him to four receptions for 33 yards as he was often isolated against him in single coverage.

"He stepped up to the challenge, we expect that out of Corey," Ryan said. "I coached him in college and, quite honestly, I never thought he could make it in the NFL, but he did."

R. LEWIS RETURNS: Middle linebacker Ray Lewis returned to the starting lineup for the first time since severely bruising his back Nov. 5 against the Cincinnati Bengals. He underwent a minor surgical procedure to have blood drained from his back last week.

The seven-time All-Pro registered six tackles and a sack in his first game in three weeks. Lewis didn't suffer any setbacks against the Steelers, but didn't seem to be at his full capabilities.

"I felt pretty good," Lewis said. "Of course, all I'm dealing with is a couple of stitches in my back. I didn't have any real back pain. Pain is going to be pain, but I got through it and I feel better now that it's over.

"Especially that we're 9-2. Coming off a loss, I might tell you it's hurting. Seriously, I really felt good. It was just good for me to be back with my teammates."

TRAINING ROOM: Outside linebacker Dan Cody left the game with a strained knee and will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam today. The injury could potentially endanger his season. Cody, who missed his entire rookie season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his other knee, said he tore his posterior cruciate ligament and would be out for at least a few weeks.

"It's disappointing to be hurt again, but I guess it could have been much worse," Cody said. Defensive tackle Justin Bannan (toe) will also have an MRI today.

MUGHELLI MOMENT: It was a landmark day for rugged blocking fullback Ovie Mughelli as he ran with the football for the first time since entering the NFL in four years.

Mughelli gained a first down in short yardage and made the most of a career-high four carries for 21 yards with a long run of nine yards. He also caught an 11-yard pass.

"You guys shouldn't be so surprised," Mughelli said. "I ran for 2,000 yards in high school, and I scored a bunch of touchdowns in college at Wake Forest. It's been a long time coming, and it just felt great to touch the ball and contribute to the team."

INACTIVES: The Ravens deactivated cornerbacks David Pittman and Derrick Martin, running backs P. J. Daniels and Cory Ross, offensive guard Keydrick Vincent (groin), wide receiver Devard Darling, tight end Daniel Wilcox (hamstring) and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (back spasms).

Rookie Chris Chester started in place of Vincent at right guard for the second week in a row with rookie Quinn Sypniewski filling in for Wilcox. QUICK HITS: Heading into Thursday night's game against the Cincinnati Bengals with a chance to clinch the AFC North title, the Ravens won't hold any formal practices this week with players being given today off while the coaching staff formulates a game plan. The players will essentially have two brief walkthroughs Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling to Cincinnati. "Tonight's the only night you're going to be able to enjoy it," quarterback Steve McNair said. … The Ravens improved to 27-3 when they score a defensive touchdown. … The Ravens improved to 45-1 under Billick when leading by at least 14 points. … Since 1999, no team has as many shutouts as the Ravens' nine. … This was the fifth touchdown of Thomas' career and his second this season. … The 21 rushing yards surrendered marks the third-fewest in franchise history. … Seven different players recorded sacks for Baltimore, including two apiece by Terrell Suggs and Trevor Pryce along with one sack by Lewis, 1 ½ by Bart Scott, one by Thomas, one by Ivy and a half-sack for Jarret Johnson. … With seven receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown, tight end Todd Heap became the team's leading receiver ahead of Mark Clayton with 51 catches for 535 yards and six touchdowns. Clayton has 48 catches for 622 yards and three scores.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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