McNair sore, but back at practice

OWINGS MILLS -- Although his sore throwing hand was wrapped in a protective bandage, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Steve McNair practiced without incident Wednesday and remains optimistic that he'll be under center Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

McNair, whom the team took the precautionary measure of having him take shotgun snaps at times to reduce the pounding, was able to throw normally as he returned to practice after suffering a cut on his right palm in a 27-17 win over the Cleveland Browns when linebacker Andra Davis stepped on him.
"It's OK, it's getting better, but it's still sore," McNair said. "I came out to throw and did pretty good. Just going to see how the week goes and see if I can get some soreness out of it before Sunday.
"We didn't do too much pounding on it under center. Under center, is really the problem right now, taking a snap. Throwing a ball is good, it's just the initial contact from center." Ravens coach Brian Billick said the team will take a cautious approach with the three-time Pro Bowl passer.
"It's not like it's painful," Billick said. "But the less pounding he takes, the better. He threw the ball fairly well."
TRAINING ROOM: Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (hyperextended toe), tight end Todd Heap (thigh contusion), cornerback Samari Rolle (stinger), center Mike Flynn (thigh), wide receiver Derrick Mason (thigh) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (knee/back) are all listed as questionable along with safety Gerome Sapp (thigh).
Rolle said he should be able to play, which Billick reiterated.
"He should be ready to go this weekend, we hope," Billick said.
Heap wasn't present during the portion of practice that's open to the media.
The Steelers have ruled out starting right offensive tackle Max Starks with safeties Troy Polamalu (knee) and Ryan Clark listed as questionable and doubtful, respectively.
ROSTER MOVES: Outside linebacker Dan Cody's season officially ended as he was placed on injured reserve with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament. Wide receiver Alex Bannister, a 6-foot-5, 207-pound former Pro Bowl special-teams ace with the Seattle Seahawks in 2003, was cut by the Chicago Bears in August with a torn groin.
Cody indicated that he will not requite surgery and is about midway through a two-month rehabilitation.
"I would have probably been ready for the playoffs, but the timing was just bad and they needed to get someone in to help the team," said Cody, adding that he will be ready for minicamps. Bannister had initially thought he would sit out the entire season after missing last year with a broken collarbone.
Now, he's a member of the AFC North champions and headed to the playoffs. He'll be used mostly for kick coverage and as a reserve receiver, but won't be used as a return specialist. NOT A FAN OF HEINZ: Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis took a shot at the playing conditions at Heinz Field, expressing his disdain for the home of the Steelers.
"It's not a good field," Lewis said. "That's no secret. It's just a terrible field. You're playing on dirt, bottom line.
"When you start getting away from natural grass, you're always going to have a problem with today's athletes because you've got too much speed and too much power trying to slow down and trying to control themselves."
Added Billick: "They feel very good about their surface being in the condition that it's in. They feel like that's an advantage."
QUICK HITS: The NFL released a playoff scenario where Baltimore, which is seeded third in the AFC, could be mathematically eliminated from a first-round bye on Sunday if they lose to the Steelers combined with victories by the San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts. … The team signed linebacker Bobby Iwuchukwu (Purdue) to the practice squad.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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