Rolle hopeful of return

OWINGS MILLS -- There's really only one way that Baltimore Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle will truly know if his surgically-repaired neck is ready for the rigors of football. To learn if his neck is fully healed, he'll need to take a hit. That opportunity may present itself as soon as Sunday against the Cleveland Browns after Rolle missed the past five games.

Guarded about his outlook, Rolle is still wearing a red jersey that signifies he's off-limits to contact. Doctors have yet to clear him for this week, and he's expected to be a game-time decision after practicing on a limited basis for the past two days.

"It's getting better, but I won't know until I hit somebody," Rolle said Thursday in the Ravens' locker room. "That's when the true test comes: just being pain-free and not thinking in the back of my mind, 'Oh my neck is hurt, I don't want to tackle this guy.' If I play, I want to be out there every play and running around at full speed."

Rolle hasn't played in a game since Sept. 21. His hopes were raised a few weeks ago, but team doctors weren't convinced his neck was ready.

"I am optimistic, very much so," Rolle said. "Hopefully, it's better."

Although reserve cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Frank Walker have held up decently with Rolle and fellow starter Chris McAlister sidelined, Rolle acknowledged how important it would be for him to be out there since McAlister may be out this week, if not for the remainder of the season, due to a nagging right knee injury.

"They have played well, Frank and Fabian, and, fortunately, we still have a winning record, but in the upcoming weeks, we're going to face some good receivers," Rolle said. "[McAlister] is such an important part of what we do. We really need to be at full strength."

Full-strength, though, is unlikely to be the way the Ravens' secondary will be described for a while since strong safety Dawan Landry remains out with a spinal-cord concussion. Plus, Rolle is iffy and McAlister's status is uncertain at best.

Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan isn't concerned about Rolle being rusty if he returns.

"He's played the game so long, he's smart," Ryan said. "Our last opponent that he played was Cleveland, so he's familiar with what they did. Hopefully, he can get out there this week and play like the Samari Rolle we know."

REFRIGERATOR II?: Massive defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has already taken his turn as a blocking tight end, clearing a path for running back Willis McGahee on a touchdown run in a 29-10 win over the Oakland Raiders.

Now, he wants to line up in the backfield as a 6-foot-4, 345-pound fullback and reprise former Chicago Bears defensive tackle William "The Refrigerator" Perry's star turn as an all-purpose threat.

"It would be a replay of the old history of the Refrigerator," Ngata said. "I'm probably a lot faster than him, too."

In high school, Ngata played rugby and doubled as a fullback, offensive lineman and tight end.

"I'm always ready to run the ball, I've been asking the coaches every day," Ngata said. "I would love to carry that rock. I haven't done that since high school. Last week, they wanted to see me out there and see what I could do blocking.

"It's something new. It's something different. It's fun."

INJURY REPORT: McAlister didn't practice again along with offensive tackle Jared Gaither (neck stinger) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (thigh).

"He's surprised me before," Ryan said of McAlister's outlook.

McGahee (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis.

"I need to see how it feels, so this is an important day," McGahee said. "I hurt it in the game and played through it."

Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (ankle), return specialist Yamon Figurs (left knee contusion), offensive tackle Adam Terry (arthroscopic right knee surgery) and cornerback Frank Walker (thigh) were limited.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron predicted that Terry will play Sunday.

"More than hopeful, he had better play," Cameron said. "We're anticipating him playing in several roles, and he's a tough guy. He's doing everything he can to get back out and play, even though he's still nicked up. He's not 100 percent, but who is at this point?"

Tight end Todd Heap (neck) was upgraded to full participation.

Fullback Le'Ron McClain (ankle) and safety Ed Reed (nerve impingement) participated fully.

ROSTER MOVES: The Ravens shut down cornerback Derrick Martin, placing the reserve defensive back on injured reserve.

Martin will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum next week with Dr. James Andrews. In August, he tore sutures in his shoulder stemming from a repair procedure performed during the offseason.

Suspended for the season opener for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, Martin finished the season with just one special-teams tackle.

Rookie kicker Steve Hauschka (North Carolina State) was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster to take Martin's spot.

Cornerback Anwar Phillips (Penn State) was re-signed to the practice squad.

QUICK HITS: McGahee said he's not planning to take any extra precautions after being poked in the eye and suffering a laceration on his eyelid earlier this season against the Browns. The NFL said that it couldn't determine conclusively if middle linebacker Andra Davis intentionally raked McGahee's eyes, so no punishment was doled out. "I'm not even thinking about that," McGahee said. "If he meant to do it or not, it's football. It's part of the game." ... It's still unclear whether Terrance Copper, Ernie Wheelwright or Marcus Smith will act as the third wide receiver with Demetrius Williams out for the season and scheduled to undergo surgery on his left Achilles' tendon. "I wish I knew," Smith said. "My job is to make that decision hard for them. I hope they see me getting better in all the areas I need to improve." ... Ryan praised defensive tackle Brandon McKinney, a 6-foot-2, 345-pound former San Diego Chargers player who has eight tackles. "Big B looks like he's 400, but he's only like 345," Ryan said. "He's done well. He's fit right in here. He's got natural abilities." ... Ryan couldn't resist phoning his twin brother, Oakland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, to assert his bragging rights."He was like, 'Hey, tell Cam thanks for the butt-kicking,'" Ryan said. "Their whole thing was, 'Let's see who the more physical team is,' and I think they found out it was the Ravens." ... Cameron acknowledged the risk involved in his exciting double-quarterback system that utilizes both Joe Flacco and Troy Smith. "They're both still young, up-and-coming quarterbacks," Cameron said. "At the same time, it doesn't make a lot of sense to expose them to getting hit a lot. So, we're not going to overcook this thing." ... Browns running back Jamal Lewis (non-injury), offensive guard Ryan Tucker (knee), fullback Lawrence Vickers (ankle) and defensive end Corey Williams (shoulder) didn't practice. ... Safeties Sean Jones (knee) and Mike Adams (hamstring) were limited as well as linebacker Shantee Orr (foot), defensive tackle Shaun Smith (hand) and wide receiver Donte' Stallworth (quadriceps).


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