Heap likely out with hamstring injury

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap is unlikely to play Sunday against the Buffalo Bills due to a hamstring pull, according to coach Brian Billick. With backup Daniel Wilcox expected to be out again with a foot injury, Quinn Sypniewski is the lone healthy tight end. He's slated to start his second game of the season.

"I think we've always been comfortable with Quinn in there," tight ends coach Wade Harman said. "Seeing how he's played the last couple of games, you know he's going to step up and do the right thing and make plays for you."

Sypniewski has caught 14 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown this season, appearing in all six games.

After Heap aggravated his hamstring injury during Sunday's 22-3 victory over the St. Louis Rams, Sypniewski filled in and caught two passes for 10 yards. Heap initially injured his leg in a win over the San Francisco 49ers and hasn't practiced all week.

"It's just another challenge, it's just another opportunity," Sypniewski said. "Every week, there's a chance to prove yourself."

Billick said that there's a possibility the team could promote tight end Lee Vickers from the practice squad. Since Mike Flynn is reassuming his starting role at center, center-guard Chris Chester could see action as a second tight end.

"The fact that Mike is back and moving along, that could help, too," Billick said.

Chester played tight end for three seasons at Oklahoma, catching two passes for 25 yards and a touchdown as a redshirt freshman.

"If the situation comes up, I guess I'm ready," said Chester, who would continue to don his No. 65 jersey while lining up at tight end. "It's more blocking than catching passes anyway."

INJURY UPDATE: Middle linebacker Ray Lewis missed practice for the second consecutive day with a knee injury, but Billick expressed optimism that the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year will be available.

Lewis was upgraded to limited participation in practice Thursday.

"He'll work his way through it, he usually does," Billick said. "I never expect Ray Lewis not to play."

If Lewis is out, then backup Nick Greisen would start.

"Now, there's a situation where there might be a drop-off, but Nick's a good football player," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "It would be hard to replace Ray. We've done it before. If that's what has to happen, we'll be fine."

Quarterback Steve McNair (back), cornerback Chris McAlister (knee) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (foot) didn't practice for the second day in a row.

Center Mike Flynn (knee) and offensive tackles Jonathan Ogden (turf toe) and Adam Terry (sprained ankle) were limited.

Wide receivers Derrick Mason and Demetrius Williams, running back Willis McGahee and linebacker Gary Stills participated fully in practice. All four have minor knee injuries.

Linebacker Dan Cody, who's on the physically unable to perform list after offseason knee surgery, was spotted on crutches with his left foot in a heavy protective brace. Billick has already declared him out for the season.

ON GUARD: Former Ravens All-Pro linebacker Adalius Thomas broke an unofficial peace treaty, firing off the first shot since his March departure.

The New England Patriots' standout attacked the Ravens during an interview with Sports Illustrated, singling out Billick.

"You've got to remember, I'm coming in from Baltimore," Thomas said. "People there wanted the limelight, people sought out the limelight, starting with the head coach.

"It was a star-studded system. Here, it's about as different as you can get. Everybody here shies away from being the star guy. Nobody on this team beats his chest. They just all go about their business. And win."

After a brief pause where Billick seemed to consider whether he was going to respond in kind, Billick answered with a rhetorical question.

"Was AD one of those guys concerned about being in the limelight when he was here?," Billick said of a football player who did as many national interviews as he could cram in a year ago in addition to hosting his own local radio show.

The Ravens host the undefeated Patriots on Dec. 3.

SUGGS UPDATE: Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs admitted that he was beginning to grow concerned about his lack of sack production. Suggs registered his first sack since last season Sunday with another one nullified due to an offensive penalty.

"Yeah, it did start to weigh on me," Suggs said. "I'm like, 'It's getting too late in the season.' Never in my football career have I gone this long without getting one.

"They say sacks come in bunches. Now, I guess they're going to start rolling in."

Suggs, who's in a contract year, is on pace for a career-low for sacks after notching 40 during his first four NFL seasons.

Ryan said that the lack of sacks doesn't accurately reflect Suggs' performance.

"If that's the way you want to judge him on just the sack numbers, then, yeah, he would be just an average guy," Ryan said. "Obviously, the tape tells a different story. He's probably playing better than he ever has here. Terrell Suggs is the least of our worries."

EMERGING: Reserve cornerback Derrick Martin is looking to build on last week's first NFL interception.

The second-year pro declared for the NFL draft after his junior season at Wyoming, meaning he would be a rookie this year if not for leaving school early.

"I think I've got a lot of room left to grow as a player," said Martin, who will operate as the nickel back against Buffalo with McAlister out and Corey Ivy and Samari Rolle starting at cornerback. "I'm young and I can still improve. I'm hoping that last week was the start of something."

Added Billick: "Derrick's fun to watch. He is lively, out at practice or in games."

QUICK HITS: Wide receiver Mark Clayton, whose production has been limited to 13 catches for 104 yards and one touchdown largely because of injuries, is healthier than he's been all season. "At this point, I'm feeling good," he said. "The injuries have been nagging. It's been tough to go full-speed and make a play. As they're getting better, you're starting to get back to that full speed, get your cutting back and being able to incorporate myself in the offense." ... In a radio interview, former Baltimore safety Rod Woodson said he's hesitant to rank the Ravens as the fifth-best team in the AFC: "I would say the Ravens, but the offense is worse than it was during the Super Bowl year."

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

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