Notebook: M. Smith to start against Steelers

OWINGS MILLS -- After five injury-plagued years that have included a gruesome broken leg and neck surgery, Baltimore Ravens running back Musa Smith will make his first NFL start Sunday. With starter Willis McGahee out with fractured ribs and Mike Anderson likely sidelined with a quadriceps injury, Ravens coach Brian Billick declared that Smith will get the call in the season finale.

"I've dealt with the injuries and finished this year healthy," said Smith, who finished three of his first four seasons on injured reserve. "Catch the ball, run, block, everything, I want to get more touches and display my talents."

Smith has rushed for 181 yards and one touchdown on 53 carries this season for a 3.4 average per carry.

A stalwart on special teams, this represents a rare chance at extended playing time for the former third-round draft pick from Georgia.

"Musa is a good, strong, outside slashing and cut runner," Billick said. "It will be fun to see Musa carry the load."

Diminutive backup Cory Ross will back Smith up. Ross hasn't carried the ball all season, though.

Playing under a one-year, $1 million contract that expires after this season, Smith is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March.

"It adds some importance to it, but I added other games to it, too, and definitely showcased something," Smith said. "Definitely excited about getting the touches, getting the rhythm, getting the feel of the defense and doing some great things."

TRUCE: Apparently, linebacker Bart Scott was making an idle threat when he threatened to knock Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward's head off his shoulders.

It was an angry response to Ward decking Scott and safety Ed Reed on vicious downfield blocks during the Steelers' 38-7 win over Baltimore earlier this season. Ward reiterated that Scott threatened his life during a confrontation on the field.

"It's not an idle threat," Scott said at the time. "It's a promise. I'm coming after Hines. I will never pass up a hit on him or anybody else who plays for the Steelers. It's on."

By Wednesday, though, Scott's mood toward the feisty wide receiver had changed markedly.

When asked during a conference call with Pittsburgh reporters whether he wanted to kill Ward, Scott replied: "There's too much in the world to hold a grudge. I love Hines Ward, he's my favorite guy. We all say things when we're angry. I realized, 'Hey, maybe, I was a little brash.' I might send him a box of chocolates or something. Let bygones be bygones."

Ward didn't sound concerned at all about any extracurricular plots looming from the Baltimore defense.

"I'm not going to be looking around seeing if somebody is going to be trying to take a cheap hit on me," Ward told Pittsburgh reporters. "They all want to kill me but it's a kill me in a good way, I hope not in the streets kill me.

"I try to be a complete wide receiver. I have guys sometimes looking at me seeing if I'm going to crack down on them rather than looking at the running backs. That's just who I am."

Added Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: "Hines is not a dirty player. He's a very physical player. I think he gets that reputation because, at the wide receiver position, no one does what he does. No one wants to hit somebody and take hits. He does not take cheap shots."

Scott sarcastically pretended to not remember the block that preceded the feud with Ward. He repeatedly vowed that he really has put aside his issues with Ward.

"This is very sincere, I would never try to trick you guys at all," Scott said. "This is from the heart, cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. Are you guys laughing at me or with me?"

INJURY UPDATE: Eight Ravens didn't practice due to injuries, including quarterback Kyle Boller (concussion), wide receiver Mark Clayton (back), tight end Todd Heap (hamstring strain), middle linebacker Ray Lewis (back), McGahee, safety Gerome Sapp (hamstring) and tight ends Quinn Sypniewski (concussion) and Daniel Wilcox (hamstring).

That means that undrafted rookie Lee Vickers, who began the season playing defensive end on the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad, is the lone healthy tight end.

Sypniewski, who has been experiencing headaches since getting hurt in a 27-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, was noncommittal on his availability for Sunday.

"It depends on what the doctors say, I'm trying to get my head cleared up," he said. "Any kind of head injury, you don't want to take too many risks and chances. I've had worse, but anytime you have a concussion you're a little foggy and the headaches are kind of there."

Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (hamstring), Anderson and wide receiver Demetrius Williams (high-ankle sprain) practiced on a limited basis. Williams has been out for several weeks, but is intent on returning for the last game. Linebacker Edgar Jones (foot) participated fully in practice.

QUICK HITS: Wide receiver Derrick Mason was named the annual Media Good Guy award winner for his cooperation and candor with reporters who regularly cover the Ravens. Running back Willis McGahee was selected as the media's Team MVP. ... The Ravens are trying to avoid going winless in the AFC North for the first time in franchise history. ... Scott seemed surprised to learn that Pittsburgh had re-signed running back Verron Haynes with Willie Parker out for the season with a broken leg that required surgery: "Verron Haynes is still on their team? Oh, next thing you'll tell me is they signed Amos Zereoue." ... Roethlisberger (ankle) was limited in practice, and offensive tackle Marvel Smith (back) and safety Troy Polamalu (knee) are likely out. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has said that he'll likely rest starters and injured players. ... If Pittsburgh wins Sunday, Tomlin would match former Steelers coach Bill Cowher's 11-5 first-year record established in 1982. ... The Carolina Panthers signed former Ravens kicker Rhys Lloyd, whom Baltimore cut over the weekend to activate linebacker Robert McCune from the practice squad, as well as former Ravens wide receiver Travis Taylor. ... The Miami Dolphins signed offensive guard Ikechuku Ndukwe off the Ravens' practice squad.

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

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