Ravens' McAlister placed on injured reserve

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister joined an unfortunately distinguished list Wednesday, becoming the third starter whose season ended on injured reserve. It's possible the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback will undergo surgery on his right knee at some point to repair his posterior cruciate ligament.

This development represents yet another blow for a losing team that has already lost starting quarterback Steve McNair and defensive end Trevor Pryce to season-ending injuries.

The impact of not having McAlister or starting cornerback Samari Rolle in the lineup was obvious in the Ravens' 44-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts as Peyton Manning easily tossed four touchdown passes.

Defensive backs David Pittman, Derrick Martin and Corey Ivy all struggled to contain the Colts' explosive passing game.

"You're trying to mix everybody in different positions, and that's the confusion that you saw last week," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Everybody knows it's the next man who's up and they've just got to come out and prepare like the next man. It's truly hard to try to replace Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle.

"You won't do it, you won't do it. But the bottom line is we don't have to give nobody anything. Make them earn it and just come out and fight like a true professional."

In particular, Pittman struggled against the Colts. He surrendered two touchdown passes before defensive coordinator Rex Ryan benched him.

Over the final three games, the Ravens are expected to continue evaluating young players.

"It gives our young guys an opportunity to practice and really know that they're going to be the guy," linebacker Bart Scott said. "When you know you're the guy going into the game, you prepare a little bit, your focus is a little bit tighter. That can help the coaches to reel you in, help coach you and give you a little bit more personalized coaching to help bring you up to speed."

A nine-year veteran, McAlister's injury first became publicly known following the Ravens' 22-3 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 14.

Although he started and held wide receiver Randy Moss to one touchdown in a loss to the New England Patriots, McAlister missed five of the past seven games. He finished the season with 23 tackles, one interceptions and 10 pass deflections.

Ravens coach Brian Billick didn't specify a time table for McAlister's recovery or whether he will undergo surgery.

"You have to do what's right for the player specifically," Billick said. "Then, obviously how it affects the team and the idea of, 'Do you rehab it or do surgery? Do surgery now or wait.'"

INJURY UPDATE: Billick was noncommittal on whether Rolle will be available this weekend against the winless Miami Dolphins.

Rolle was a late scratch Sunday due to a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice Wednesday.

"I would hope so, but we'll see," Billick said. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his knee only revealed a slight sprain and expressed confidence that he will start after being limited in practice.

"Not too serious, it feels pretty good," Ngata said. "I just want to make sure I don't aggravate it more. I'll play Sunday. The strength is still there. We're just being cautious with it."

Defensive tackles Justin Bannan (sprained knee) and Kelly Gregg (thigh) and safety Gerome Sapp (hamstring) were limited.

Tight end Todd Heap (hamstring) didn't practice again and is regarded as a question mark for Sunday and to play again this year.

Wide receiver Demetrius Williams (high-ankle sprain) was ruled out again.

Center Mike Flynn (foot), offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (hamstring) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (toe/ankle) all participated fully.

NEW SPOT: Reserve offensive guard Chris Chester hadn't played on defense since his high school days in Tustin, Calif., where he played linebacker while doubling as a prep All-American tight end. He had to refresh his memory in a hurry against the Colts when he had to play defensive tackle as an emergency replacement.

"It was fun," Chester said. "I had no idea what was going on. It was one of those situations where you just try to stay low. Rex told me I did okay."

Defensive tackle Amon Gordon would likely fill in next time instead of Chester.

ROSTER MOVES: McAlister's spot on the active roster was filled by cornerback Willie Gaston (University of Houston, who was promoted from the practice squad.

The team signed former Denver Broncos cornerback Jeff Shoate (San Diego State) to the practice squad along with defensive tackle Zarnell Fitch (TCU), who was cut last weekend.

The Ravens tried out tight end Wesley Duke (Mercer), wide receiver Dereck Faulkner and defensive back E.J. Underwood (Pikeville), but didn't sign any of those players.

ROUGH RIDE: Lewis had a difficult trip home to Maryland on Tuesday after filming an UnderArmour commercial in New York. Because there wasn't a train running that late, Lewis had to catch a ride on a helicopter provided by the Baltimore-based athletic apparel company.

Due to inclement conditions, the helicopter made an unplanned landing in Cecil County. Despite the trouble, Lewis eventually made it to a Christmas party he threw.

"Probably was one of the craziest things in the world that happened with me, traveling or whatever," Lewis said. "Coming back to my Christmas party, I think it gave a totally different appreciation on life itself, blessing as many kids as we did."

QUICK HITS: Lewis, who didn't speak to reporters before or after the Colts' game, offered his first take on the blowout loss. "Last week was a disappointment because a lot of people who were supposed to have stepped up didn't," he said. "A lot of balls went against us." ... Billick didn't seem to remember former Ravens quarterback Cleo Lemon, who will start for the Dolphins this week. "Not a whole lot, it's been a long time, I really couldn't say," Billick said. "Watching on the film, he's a good athlete and he has a good, strong arm." ... Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder (foot) and defensive tackles Vonnie Holliday (ankle) and Keith Traylor (personal reasons) didn't practice. Running backs Jesse Chatman (ankle) and Patrick Cobbs (hip), cornerback Michael Lehan (groin) and defensive end Matt Roth (groin) were limited.

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

Ravens Insider Top Stories