Ravens' McAlister, Heap questionable

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens will probably have to wait until the last minute before they'll know if cornerback Chris McAlister and tight end Todd Heap are going to play Monday night against the New England Patriots. McAlister and Heap were held out of practice for the second consecutive day with knee and hamstring injuries, respectively.

At least McAlister, who has missed four of the past five games, was at practice Saturday morning even if he was dressed in sweats. Heap wasn't present, hinting strongly that it's nearly a lock that Quinn Sypniewski will start at tight end against the Patriots' third-ranked defense.

"Yep," Ravens coach Brian Billick replied when asked if Heap and McAlister are expected to be game-time decisions. "We're going to have to wait and see how they progress."

Meanwhile, cornerback Samari Rolle, who has had several bouts with epilepsy this season, was wearing sweats instead of the normal practice garb.

It's believed he was just being rested, though. Wide receiver Derrick Mason returned to practice after missing Friday's workout for undisclosed reasons. Mason wasn't listed on the official injury report.

"No, he was fine," Billick said. "He made it through the day okay."

'ED BELICHICK'?: Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been acting as if he wants to adopt Ravens safety Ed Reed, praising him nonstop all week.

"Ed Reed is an awesome football player," Belichick said. "To me, he's one of the best football players in the league. He's really, really good, as good as anybody I've ever seen."

Belichick coached Reed at the Pro Bowl and came away singularly impressed with the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year's intellect, instincts and range.

So much so that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady joked that Belichick wants to adopt Reed.

"It's going to be Ed Belichick," Brady said.

A New England reporter asked Belichick whether he planned to kidnap Reed on the Patriots' charter flight early Tuesday morning.

"I think Tom's stretching it a little bit there," Belichick said. "We can't do that. We can't do that."

SIDELINED: Offensive tackle Adam Terry's ankle is getting better, but he's still not going to start on the right side over rookie Marshal Yanda.

Yanda replaced Terry in the starting lineup during last week's 32-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers and is now listed atop the depth chart. "I'm moving around better and I'm ready to spell Marshal," Terry said. "I'll do whatever the team needs and stay ready. Marshal did a great job out there last week."

NOT YET: Offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel has been linked to several vacancies, including the Georgia Tech and SMU jobs along with heavy speculation about the UCLA post currently held by embattled Bruins coach Karl Dorrell.

However, Neuheisel said Saturday that all contact has been back-channel with no interviews currently scheduled. He acknowledged that his name has been thrown around considerably more than in past years, but emphasized that it's early in the hiring process.

NOT SCARED: Hard-hitting Patriots safety Rodney Harrison carries a reputation as an enforcer as one of the most heavily fined defenders in league history.

His intimidation tactics apparently don't bother Mason, who could be put in harm's way if quarterback Kyle Boller hangs his passes up in the air too long.

"I don't worry about it," Mason said. "The guy is a very, very good player. I've played against him six or seven times and I've never been intimidated going across the middle. Am I intimidated by him? No. Is he a very good player? Yes.

"You just got to be aware of what's going on. I've got enough faith and the other receivers have got enough faith in Kyle that he's going to put the ball on us so we're able to make a move and not take that vicious hit."

BALL-CONTROL: With 910 rushing yards to rank third in the NFL, running back Willis McGahee is on pace or a career-high 1,324 yards. He has scored a touchdown in each of the past six games.

"I'm going to try to make some noise," McGahee said. "I want to be the spark to get us going."

McGahee could play a pivotal role for the defense if his ability play ball-control keeps Brady and Co. off the field.

"When they get a good rest, they go out there and perform to their abilities," he said. "When we keep them on the field, it tends to get weakened. It doesn't break, but it gets weak."

HONORING TAYLOR: The Ravens plan to wear No. 21 patches on their helmets to honor the memory of slain Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor.

"I left that up to them," Billick said.

QUICK HITS: With 442 points scored for a 40.2 average per game, the undefeated Patriots could break the 1998 Minnesota Vikings' NFL single-season scoring record of 556 points. Billick was the Vikings' offensive coordinator that year prior to landing the Baltimore job. "I think we had a tremendous broad base of talent in that '98 Vikings team," Billick said. "Randall Cunningham did a very good job. This team is very well-structured. Tom Brady, taking nothing away from Randall, he had a magnificent year, but you'd have to show me the film of a quarterback that played better in a given year than Tom Brady is playing right now." ... Linebacker Bart Scott said he was in a bad mood Thursday and wasn't doing an imitation of Belichick wearing a hooded sweatshirt. He's trying to avoid being in an even worse mood following the game.. When asked if he viewed Monday night as the Ravens' Super Bowl, Scott responded: "If I was getting a ring, I would approach it like that. I'm looking at it as an opportunity to get a win and not feel crappy Monday or Tuesday morning."

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

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