Reed a question mark

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens star safety Ed Reed didn't practice Friday due to lingering head and neck injuries, raising concerns that the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year could possibly be out or limited Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

If the three-time Pro Bowl selection is unavailable due to being shaken up by a jarring hit from Hines Ward during the Ravens' 38-7 loss Monday night to the Pittsburgh Steelers, then the Ravens' secondary could be missing as many as three starters against one of the league's top quarterbacks and wide receiver corps.

Reed was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday due to a sensitivity to light, according to Ravens coach Brian Billick.

Cornerback Samari Rolle has already been ruled out because of an undisclosed illness, and cornerback Chris McAlister is expected to be a game-time decision with a strained knee that has kept him out of the past two games.

McAlister and Reed, who's tied for the NFL lead with five interceptions, are listed as questionable on the official injury report.

Now, the Bengals are coming to M&T Bank Stadium with a passing game that features Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer (2,193 yards, 16 touchdowns) along with wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh (62 catches, 674 yards and 10 touchdowns) and Chad Johnson (47 catches, 779 yards and three touchdowns).

Baltimore allowed five touchdown passes to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"Sure it's a concern, absolutely," Billick said. "Even with a healthy secondary, that's a good team you worry about. We've got a handful of guys we have a lot of faith in and they're going to go out and play as hard as they can."

Will that be good enough, though?

The Ravens' defensive backs were torched by Roethlisberger for scores from 17, 15, 30, 35 and seven yards.

This is regarded as an even tougher matchup. "They're definitely a formidable opponent," said cornerback Corey Ivy, who will replace Rolle again in the starting lineup. "We definitely have to bring our 'A' game. Hopefully, we can come out with a much-needed victory in the division."

That goal has been complicated by the return of troubled Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry from an eight-game NFL suspension for multiple violations of the league's personal-conduct policy. Henry is an imposing, athletic target at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. If McAlister is starting, then Derrick Martin might draw this matchup in nickel situations.

Martin was beaten for a few scores in his starting debut against Pittsburgh.

If Martin is starting or playing the majority of the time due to McAlister's injury, then Ronnie Prude could be inserted. Prude got picked on several times during a win over the Arizona Cardinals earlier this year. Cornerback David Pittman (concussion), who operated in the nickel package Monday night, is questionable.

Regardless of who's checking him, Henry represents a big challenge.

"I think he's kind of like a Randy Moss, a poor man's Randy Moss," Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "He's that kind of receiver: a big, explosive athlete. He's made some big plays against us in the past as well. "He's more than a vertical receiver. He can catch the ball underneath and all that. Clearly, he's a weapon. We know all about him."

INJURY UPDATE: Billick said he'll be busy before kickoff as he and the medical staff determine several game-time decisions.

"Don't ask to see me then," he said. One player the Ravens might not need to be as concerned about is Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap. Heap, who missed the past two games, practiced all week without aggravating his strained hamstring.

"I think I'll be ready," said Heap, who was upgraded to probable and participated fully in practice Friday for the first time this week. "You don't want to rush it. You want to make sure you're as close as you can get to being healthy before you go out and press it. We'll see on Sunday."

Meanwhile, linebacker Terrell Suggs (knee) returned to practice and all but guaranteed he would play Sunday. He's listed as questionable. "He was able to move around pretty well," Billick said.

The Ravens ruled out tight end Daniel Wilcox (sprained toe).

Safety Gerome Sapp (hamstring) didn't practice and is questionable, further thinning the depth behind Reed.

Linebacker Prescott Burgess (quad contusion) is probable.

The Bengals ruled out linebacker Caleb Miller with a back injury, upgrading Johnson (neck), cornerback Deltha O'Neal (knee) and linebacker Rashad Jeanty (knee) to probable status.

QUICK HITS: Kicker Matt Stover's right leg is improved, but not to the point where he's prepared to handle kickoffs in addition to his field-goal and extra-point duties. Rhys Lloyd is likely to kick off again Sunday. "It's coming around pretty good, but you just got to be smart," Stover said. "I hope Rhys is up for kicking off. I'm going to highly suggest. The key is I can still kick strong, but kickoffs puts a lot more pressure on it." ... Billick was complimentary of Bengals defensive end Justin Smith. "Excellent young defensive lineman, high-motor, high-energy," he said. "He's one of those guys you have to deal with every single snap." ... Baltimore practiced outside despite the damp conditions, which is rare. "The guys always like being outside," Billick said. ... The Bengals have won five of the past six meetings in this series and two of the last three in Baltimore. ... Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was asked if he shares a bond with Billick considering how both of them have drawn heavy criticism for their teams' respective slides. "Unfortunately, I don't have the opportunity to keep up with whatever scrutiny Brian's under right now," Lewis said in a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "Neither one of is where we want to be, and I think that is the common bond."

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

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