Pryce out for 3-5 games, McNair on mend

OWINGS MILLS -- Steve McNair is expected to be under center Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, and the anticipated return of the starting quarterback coincided with the news that veteran defensive end Trevor Pryce will miss between three and five games with a broken wrist. Pryce underwent surgery on his left wrist Sunday night after getting injured during a 20-13 win over the New York Jets.

The four-time Pro Bowl selection will miss at least three weeks with a potential early return against the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 14 and a maximum, expected recovery of being back Nov. 5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to Ravens coach Brian Billick.

He will be replaced in the starting lineup by Dwan Edwards.

"Depending on the rehab, how he feels when it's casted up, playing with the club," Billick said of Pryce's outlook. "But I look to have him back possibly by St. Louis , maybe Buffalo , clearly after the bye. Trevor has meant a lot to us and it's great that he'll be back."

Meanwhile, the prognosis was more upbeat for McNair, who missed his first start since joining the Ravens due to a groin pull. McNair said Sunday that he was almost ready to play, but said it was too early to determine whether he'll play against Arizona .

"He felt like if he really had to go, he could have," Billick said. "It's encouraging that he should be able to go on Wednesday."

When asked if he thought McNair would start this week, Billick replied: "That would be my expectation now based on how he felt Sunday."

Plus, All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden is apparently close to testing out his hyperextended left big toe, an injury that has nagged him since last December. However, Ogden is also dealing with a foot problem that arose while trying to block Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Justin Smith during the season opener.

Billick said that Ogden and tight end Daniel Wilcox (sprained right ankle), could return as soon as Wednesday's practice.

The 10-time Pro Bowl selection said last week that he aggravated his toe injury, which Billick contradicted.

"This is not the toe, this is not the injury he's been rehabbing all offseason," Billick said. "This is a different injury. This is a foot injury. It's a combination because you overcompensate.

"I don't want to say they're totally unrelated. That's a good thing because it indicates there's a good chance he can come back. If Jonathan feels like he can go, he'll go."

Billick indicated that if Ogden returns, then Adam Terry would shift back to right tackle to replace rookie Marshal Yanda.

Wide receiver Mark Clayton is nearly fully recovered from toe and ankle problems that have severely limited his mobility and production over the first two weeks. He caught a screen pass for a loss of one yard against the Jets.

"The ankle was feeling pretty good, and then he got the toe," Billick said. "It's a double-whammy. Based on what we saw the other day, I think he's going to be ready to go.

"Mark will be ready to reinsert himself into the rotation. I think he's as healthy as he's been since that first week against Philadelphia."

Billick acknowledged that this is a greater amount of early-season injuries than any in his recent memory.

"To have the rash of injuries and the nature of them -- they're not pulls and stretches -- they're hits, they're breaks, they're ankles and they're wrists," Billick said. "It's a physical game, but I can't remember starting out any year this way."

It will take a lot to replace Pryce's pass-rushing skills.

He registered a team-high 13 sacks and 73 quarterback hits a year ago, and Baltimore struggled to penetrate the backfield in the second half Sunday without blitzing.

That vulnerability appeared to lead to Kellen Clemens passing for 176 yards and a touchdown on 10 of 19 accuracy during the fourth quarter after going 9 for 18 for 84 yards through three quarters.

Now, Edwards will get a chance to prove himself since being drafted in the second round four years ago.

Edwards won't be alone in replacing Pryce. With Edwards operating primarily on first and second downs, rookie outside linebacker Antwan Barnes will be the situational rusher on third downs in the nickel package.

"We'll have to tag team it, do it in tandem," Billick said.

Edwards, who had a strong training camp and blocked an extra point against the Bengals, had three tackles against the Jets. He only played in 24 games with one start during his first three seasons with 54 career tackles and no sacks.

"I know the defensive coaches are excited about the way Dwan is playing now," Billick said. "It's a great opportunity for Dwan. We're very pleased with where he is right now and what he'll do for us."

The 6-foot-3, 290-pound lineman has lost 30 pounds since last season. He credited an improved diet and a steady regimen of basketball and weight lifting for a dramatically transformed build. Edwards has made a permanent shift to a 3-4 end from defensive tackle.

"Now that I'm an end, I know I'm an end," Edwards said during training camp. "I can kind of slim down and I'm better suited to play there now.

"I know what I'm doing now, so that's definitely a big plus for me. I'm definitely a step quicker."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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