Notebook: Reed makes his return

BALTIMORE -- In the wake of missing the entire preseason with a nerve impingement, Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed made a last-minute decision to test out his neck and left shoulder Sunday and started for the Baltimore Ravens without incident. Reed didn't aggravate the injury during the Ravens' 17-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium.

He recorded three tackles, deflecting one pass to cornerback Chris McAlister for an interception.

Reed said he's not in danger by continuing to play. He took precautions against the Bengals by only doling out a few hits and generally led with his right shoulder after not having any contact during the preseason.

"They told me that there's not any catastrophic risk, but you're always at risk playing football," Reed said. "It's just about being smart and not getting too caught up in the game and banging too much. You try not to feel it.

"I got contact on both sides. I hit the ground on both shoulders. I was smart not diving on tackles and joining in on gang tackles. I felt good, and we'll see how it goes going forward."

Reed's injury will likely continue to be a concern and will be monitored throughout the season.

The Ravens didn't use Reed in their blitz package. He stayed back deep, remaining away from the line of scrimmage for the majority of the game.

"Health is still very important," Reed said. "It's still day-to-day. We were more concerned about conditioning than anything else. Everything worked out fine.

"It's a blessing to be out there. No hesitation, none at all. I had a couple things where I was a little timid, but I think it kind of helped me."

Reed said doctors initially informed him that he was supposed to be out for the first four or five games.

"I'm still talking about it with the doctors about if there's any soreness or pain," he said. "We're just being smart about what we're doing."

McAlister and cornerback Samari Rolle also missed most of the preseason with injuries, but both played well against the Bengals as they shut down wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

McAlister recovered a fumble to go with his interception.

"When they started to call the starting lineup and I saw Ed was behind me, I said, 'Oh, we good,'" linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "I told him early in the week, 'You don't have to hit nobody. You just get us lined up and tell us where we got to go and we'll be all right.'"

HEAVY-DUTY: The contrasting running styles of fullback Le'Ron McClain and tailback Ray Rice paid dividends against the Bengals.

With starter Willis McGahee sidelined with a knee injury, McClain bashed ahead for a career-high 86 yards and 19 carries as Rice darted around for 64 yards on 22 carries in his first career start.

"We did give them different looks," Rice said. "I think we played well."

The Ravens rushed for 229 rushing yards on 46 carries to average five yards per attempt. Baltimore converted each of its third-and-one opportunities.

"We knew there were some holes in the defense that we could take advantage of," said McClain, a 6-foot, 260-pound battering ram. "We're going to lose games if we give it away on offense, so we just took pride in going hard at practice all week and it paid off on game day."

During the Ravens' final series, McClain ran the ball seven times for 42 yards to run out the clock. Pro Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal was a big factor in the running game, too.

"I'm a fullback first, I'm a running back second," McClain said. "I'm just a fullback, but I have confidence I can run the ball."

McClain gave out a lot of hits and took his lumps, too. The Bengals taunted him while he was on the ground at one point in the second half.

"They were just dog-cussing him, talking about his momma and everything," center Jason Brown said. "He laid down there a good while, but he got up and the way he finished running that last drive, I'm so proud of him."

A former Alabama standout, McClain was rarely used other than as a lead blocker last season.

"He was running north and south, and the ball was high and tight," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a load, he's tough to tackle."

A second-round draft pick out of Rutgers, Rice averaged just 2.9 yards per carry and caught three passes for 19 yards.

He had a dropped pass and fumbled the football in the fourth quarter with cornerback Johnathan Joseph returning it 65 yards for a touchdown to close the Ravens' lead to 17-10.

"I think if I had to evaluate it, I wouldn't say that I did great," Rice said. "I'm always going to leave room to get better, but I think I did fairly well."

On the fumble, Rice said he trying to switch hands when linebacker Rashad Jeanty stripped him of the ball.

"I was going to go down and, as I was tucking it, he got a nice grip on it and it popped out," Rice said. "It was a good play on their part. The coaches still gave me the ball again and I got my confidence back."

SIDELINED: The Ravens opted to rest McGahee as a precautionary measure after he tested out his surgically-repaired left knee during warmup drills, but he's expected to play next week against the Houston Texans.

McGahee missed the entire preseason and skipped the majority of the offseason minicamps.

"We were concerned about the knee and the fact that he didn't play a lot," coach John Harbaugh said. "We were hopeful to get him into the game at some point in time, but the way the game shook out, we were unable to do it.

"He'll practice in a more physical manner this week, and then we should have him ready to go next week."

INJURY REPORT: Cornerback Corey Ivy left the game with a sprained right ankle that involves his ligaments and didn't return. This could wind up being a serious injury.

Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo bruised his leg and didn't return.

Tight end Todd Heap incurred a back contusion, but returned.

Heap had a rough game with a dropped touchdown pass and a lost fumble after missing the majority of the preseason with a calf injury.

OCHO CINCO?: Although Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson legally changed his name to Chad Ocho Cinco, the NFL refused to allow him to put his name on his jersey.

"While the NFL has recognized the legal name change of Chad Johnson to Chad Ocho Cinco, the league informed the Bengals that certain issues remain to be resolved before Ocho Cinco will be permitted to wear his new surname on his jersey," the league said in a statement. "He will wear the name Johnson on his jersey today and will be referred to as Chad Johnson on the official play-by-play sheet."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Associated Press that Johnson has financial obligations to Reebok that have to be resolved before he can change his jersey.

"I ain't worried about the name, man," Johnson said. "We just lost the game."

INACTIVES: The Ravens deactivated offensive tackle Willie Anderson, linebacker Tavares Gooden, offensive tackle Oniel Cousins, offensive guard David Hale, wide receiver Marcus Smith (separated right shoulder), cornerback Evan Oglesby and nose guard Kelly Gregg (left knee).

Quarterback Troy Smith (illness) was listed as the emergency third quarterback.

Anderson was signed Friday after being cut by the Bengals.

"It was stranger for other people than for me, but I understand the business part," Anderson said. "I'm doing everything I can right now to fit in as fast as possible and get ready for the next game. Hopefully, I can catch up to their pace."

QUICK HITS: Baltimore native and Olympic basketball star Carmelo Anthony was an honorary game captain as the Denver Nuggets forward was back in town with his gold medal. "It means a great deal," said Anthony, who has a Ravens tattoo. "It's just an honor for me, being from Baltimore." When asked if he had any designs on playing wide receiver, Anthony joked: "I'm only running fade routes." ... Baltimore improved to 14-11 all-time against Cincinnati, including a 10-3 mark at home as the Ravens snapped a three-game losing streak to the Bengals. ... Joe Flacco and Rice formed the first pair of rookies starting in the same backfield since David Carr and Jarrod Baxter with the Houston Texans in 2002. ... Wide receiver Mark Clayton's 42-yard touchdown on a double-reverse is the longest run by a non-running back in franchise history. ... Baltimore has gone an NFL-best 20 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher.

5 KEYS TO THE GAME

1. The Baltimore Ravens engineered a 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday to open the season and John Harbaugh's tenure as coach, winning the old-fashioned way: by beating the Bengals into submission on both sides of the football. That was characterized by an ultra-physical approach from the offensive line and the running backs. The Ravens simply wore down the Bengals upfront by piling up 229 rushing yards on 46 carries for an average of five yards per carry. A group of relatively unproven blockers that had to replace retired All-Pro tackle Jonathan Ogden cleared big pathways for bruising fullback Le'Ron McClain, who gained a career-high 86 yards on 19 carries) and rookie Ray Rice (64 yards on 22 carries) as well as touchdowns on a 38-yard bootleg from rookie quarterback Joe Flacco and a 42-yard reverse from wide receiver Mark Clayton. Fullback Lorenzo Neal was a key factor, as were offensive linemen Jason Brown, Ben Grubbs, Marshal Yanda, Jared Gaither and Adam Terry.

2. Defensively, the Ravens absolutely stymied Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer as well as shutting down traditionally explosive wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Palmer completed just 10 of 25 passes for 99 yards, no touchdowns, one interception from cornerback Chris McAlister, no touchdowns and was sacked twice. Johnson caught just one pass for 22 yards, and Houshmandzadeh was limited to three catches for 44 yards.

3. Flacco wasn't spectacular in his NFL starting debut, but he didn't have to be. The former Delaware star was steady and calm in completing 15 of 29 passes for 129 yards and no turnovers for a 63.7 quarterback rating. The game didn't seem too fast or too big for the first-round draft pick. He also threw a key downfield block on Clayton's touchdown run to open a 7-0 lead. Tight end Todd Heap fumbled away one Flacco completion, and he dropped a certain touchdown pass in the end zone.

4. Free safety Ed Reed started despite missing the entire preseason with a serious nerve impingement of his neck and left shoulder. While he stayed out of the fray at times and was cautious about throwing his body around, he also deflected a Palmer pass to McAlister for an interception. Meanwhile, outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and Terrell Suggs combined for 10 tackles, three tackles for losses, one sack and two pass deflections. Suggs nearly intercepted a Palmer pass in the open field, but dropped the ball.

5. Massive defensive tackle Haloti Ngata stuffed running back Chris Perry on a crucial 4th-and-1 in Ravens territory to give the football back to the offense, which responded by running out the final 7 minutes and 15 seconds of the game with nine runs as McClain converted three third downs with his bullish running style.

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


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