Notebook: McAlister hopeful of return

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens are banking on having cornerback Chris McAlister in the lineup Monday night against the New England Patriots to combat quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Randy Moss. However, the Pro Bowl defensive back's strained right knee might not cooperate.

McAlister, who has missed four of the past five games, vowed that he will try to play, but he made no guarantees.

"I'm going to push through harder this week than I have in the past just to give me the opportunity to get out there because of what this game means, playing at home and playing against the Patriots, who appear to be the best team in the NFL," McAlister said Wednesday following a brief walkthrough. "It's always a good thing to be able to go out there and compete against the best."

Ravens coach Brian Billick expressed optimism again about McAlister's availability, albeit with a caveat.

"I always say that, but I'm an optimistic person," Billick said.

Meanwhile, outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said he expects to play despite a broken right thumb.

Johnson, who broke his thumb during the Ravens' 32-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers, will wear a cast on his thumb against New England.

"In my mind, I'll be out there, but we'll have to see what happens in practice this week," Johnson said. "It was a good break. It didn't slide much, just a little bit."

On an unrelated injury note, veteran equipment manager Ed Carroll recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. However, he didn't miss practice.

Patriots running back Kevin Faulk didn't practice due to a thigh injury.

Brady (right shoulder), cornerback Randall Gay (back), offensive guard Stephen Neal (shoulder) and wide receiver Wes Welker (team decision) were limited in practice.

GRIEVING: The Ravens held a prayer service conducted by team chaplain Rod Hairston in honor of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who was murdered earlier this week in a shooting at his Miami home.

Described as a close friend of linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed and running back Willis McGahee, Taylor and the trio of Ravens stars all attended the University of Miami. Reed and McGahee played with Taylor on a national championship squad.

"We've got a couple of players obviously that are very familiar with him, very close to him: Ray, Willis and Ed," Billick said. "He obviously impacted them very strongly."

Reed declined an interview request and Lewis and McGahee were unavailable for comment. Funeral services are scheduled for Monday morning, so it's highly unlikely the Ravens' players will be able to attend.

"I knew Sean Taylor just by running into him," McAlister said. "It took me by surprise. It's an unfortunate thing. I think a lot of guys around the league feel for him and his family.

"Life is bigger than a football game. At the same time, you become a target for a lot of people out there."

REMINISCE: Patriots coach Bill Belichick grew up in Annapolis as the son of Naval Academy assistant coach Steve Belichick, but has never coached a game at M&T Bank Stadium. The former Baltimore Colts assistant worked under Ted Marchibroda when the team played at Memorial Stadium.

"My only experiences in that stadium have just been for lacrosse, I haven't had an opportunity to come there for any football games," Belichick said in a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "But it was awesome being there last year, watching Johns Hopkins win the national championship. That was a great experience.

"It's a lot different feel than the old Memorial Stadium. I don't need to tell you guys that. Memorial Stadium will always hold a special place for me because that's where I did start. Even as a kid, going up to watch the Orioles and the Colts play, growing up and following them, going up there to 33rd street. That sticks with you for a lifetime, and it always will with me."

QUICK HITS: Brady made a joke about the distinct admiration that Belichick has for Reed, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

"He wants to adopt Ed Reed," Brady told New England reporters. "It's going to be Ed Belichick. I know he coached him at the Pro Bowl last year and as a defensive coach I think you look at a player who is such a game-changer. He knew what an impact on the game that Lawrence Taylor had, and I think Ed Reed is similar.

"Really a game-changer. He's a ballhawk. He covers so much ground back there. He's really smart. He's really aware. He loves football. He has all the great qualities of a great defensive player. I'll tell you, he better run after the game is over because coach is going to try to bring him back on the plane with us, if he could." ...

The Ravens tried to sign former Patriots defensive lineman Kareem Brown, who was signed off waivers by the New York Jets after being cut by New England. The Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers placed waiver claims on Brown, but the Jets (2-9) won out with the worst record among the three teams. Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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