Harbaugh focused on Texans, not playoffs

OWINGS MILLS -- Midway through the season, the Baltimore Ravens have already matched their victory total from last year and are positioning themselves as a potential playoff contender with a tie for the AFC wild-card lead. The Ravens are a game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC North division lead.

"What have we done? We're 5-3," Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. "We're not going to be any worse than 5-11. That's all we've guaranteed ourselves right now."

Following a 37-27 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday to sweep the season series, the Ravens are now 3-1 in the AFC North and 5-3 in the AFC after going 1-5 and 2-10 in those respective categories a year ago.

"I still don't think we're where we should be, but it's great to be 5-3," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "We have a lot of football left."

After going 1-7 on the road last season, the Ravens are now 2-2 away from M&T Bank Stadium and 3-1 at home. They have yet to defeat a team with a winning record, though.

"Are we excited to be in the hunt? Yeah, but that's all we are: in the hunt," Harbaugh said. "To look at it from any kind of deeper perspective, we think is kind of a waste of time. You can start thinking about it and speculating about it. We're in it.

"We have a shot to be in way down the road, but until you stack up enough wins, you're not in it. We're going to have to stack up nine, 10, 11, 12, whatever number of wins it is. We can't do that without taking care of the next game. That's the reality for our football team. You guys can talk about the playoffs."

INJURY REPORT: Cornerback Chris McAlister has been ruled out for Sunday's game, but not yet for the season despite speculation that season-ending surgery is in the offing for the three-time Pro Bowl selection.

Harbaugh said that McAlister is seeking a third medical opinion on his aching right knee. He went to Miami last week to consult with a specialist and is expected to go to California for another examination.

"Hopefully, we'll know something more by the end of the week definitive," Harbaugh said. "We thought we might at the end of last week, but we really don't know yet. So, we're hoping to get him back and he's trying to get back."

Meanwhile, Harbaugh expressed confidence that cornerback Samari Rolle will return this week after missing six games with a neck injury that required surgery.

"Rolle will be back, barring something that we don't know about at this point," Harbaugh said.

However, Rolle has yet to take a hit since returning to practice to test out his surgically-repaired neck.

"Until he gets into that situation, he's not going to know," Harbaugh said. "The neck is sound, he's strong, he's got 100 percent strength back. He's going to be in a little bit of a collar. I think when he gets that first shot he's going to be reassured. Until you get that first shot, you're not reassured."

Offensive tackle Adam Terry's role may expand since he made it through the last game healthy after recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

"He's back, I would say, full time," Harbaugh said. "He got through the game okay. He's a little sore. He'll play more in the next game, we hope, so he's a full-time player now."

Harbaugh said that cornerbacks Frank Walker (hamstring) and Fabian Washington (right shoulder) didn't seriously aggravate preexisting injuries against the Browns.

TOUGH SLEDDING: The Ravens struggled against Browns star return specialist Joshua Cribbs, allowing him to return a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and pile up 237 yards in returns.

The Ravens tried to kick it away from him, but his range was way too good. And Cribbs broke several tackles, including kicker Matt Stover and safety Haruki Nakamura's attempts on his score.

"We thought about it during the game, we were trying not to kick to him," Harbaugh said. "Those mortar kicks that were going left and right were kicks that were designed to get in the hands of the wedge, and he goes and gets them in a windy stadium. He can go sideline to sideline and catch the ball, and what's what he did and did a great job.

"Cribbs and Devin Hester are the two best return guys in the league. We had our hands full tackling him. It really wasn't anything other than the fact that he broke a lot of tackles. We've got to do a better job of wrapping them up tight and getting them down on the ground."

QUICK HITS: In a reaction to losing their bye originally scheduled for this week due to Hurricane Ike postponing the Texans game, the Ravens are condensing their practice schedule. Players were off Monday and today, and practice has been toned down to account for the loss of the bye. "We'll slow down the tempo of some of the drills," Harbaugh said. "It'll probably be this much less physical, this much more mental." ... Kicker Matt Stover has connected on eight of his past nine field goals, going 5 for 5 over the past three games. He has converted 37 consecutive field goals inside 40 yards and hit all three attempts against the Browns. ... Tight end Todd Heap had a pair of false-start penalties against Cleveland and didn't catch a pass. "He got a little anxious on some of those blocks," Harbaugh said. "Throughout the course of the game, he blocked really well. I'm a little surprised that he's as good of a blocker as he is, not knowing him throughout his career. He's got the reputation of being a pass-catching tight end. Everybody wants to see him catch more balls and we want him to catch more balls, and he will. Gosh, he's a physical football player in there blocking and that's a good thing to see." ... The Ravens' coaching staff works on the game plan Monday nights, but will also check out the Steelers game. "We have the Monday night game up on the TV screen there, then, on our computers, we've got the tape we're watching and do this back and forth and watching both," Harbaugh said. "We'll want to know how they do."


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