Ravens' punt returns in flux

Shortly after Pro Bowl return specialist Jermaine Lewis joined the Houston Texans in the expansion draft, the task of replacing him was left to Gary Zauner. Months later, the Baltimore Ravens' new special teams coordinator is still pondering the ongoing saga of how to replace Lewis' lost production on punt returns.

Zauner has three primary options to consider for this situation: Veteran cornerback Chris McAlister, former Miami Dolphins record-setter Jeff Ogden or sixth-round draft pick Lamont Brightful.

McAlister returned punts in a 10-7 loss Sunday to the Carolina Panthers, but mustered only 13 yards on three attempts for a 4.3 average. Brightful was designated as inactive.

Ravens coach Brian Billick said McAlister will continue to pull double duty on defense and special teams, but said the possibility exists of using the newly acquired Ogden in tandem with his cornerback.

When asked Wednesday about the club investing a draft choice in Brightful, Billick said, "It was, what, sixth round?" followed by a lengthy pause. Then, Billick affirmed McAlister's status, Ogden's potential and said Brightful will still be developed.

Ogden was signed to a one-year contract Tuesday after averaging a Dolphins' single-season record 13.7 yards per return along with an 81-yard touchdown against Green Bay.

Ogden, who also plays receiver, was cut by Miami in favor of former Canadian Football League standout Albert Johnson.

"Whatever situation it is, I'm going to be ready to step in," Ogden said. "I think it's a good opportunity."

McAlister didn't have much to say when asked about his status on punt returns.

Brightful averaged 16.5 yards with a long return of 34 yards in the preseason. He struggled with his hands on occasion in practice, causing Zauner concern.

Brightful averaged 16.8 yards on kick returns, but rookie Javin Hunter is handling that duty and averaged 13.5 yards on two returns against Carolina.

"I'm just taking it in stride, working hard and staying patient," Brightful said. "Since starting Chris was kind of a last-minute decision, I haven't had a chance to talk to them about it yet. I'll just keep pushing and stay ready."


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