Ravens downplay 'bounty' controversy

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs steered clear of the controversy he created months ago in a radio interview when he suggested that the Ravens had placed bounties on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and running back Rashard Mendenhall.

In the aftermath of an episode that caused Suggs to be admonished by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and warned by league vice president of operations Ray Anderson that any further mention of bounties could draw significant disciplinary action, Suggs tread carefully Wednesday when asked about his comments.

"Don't even ask," Suggs said. "You know how Roger is. I have a good feeling Roger will be somewhere nearby watching."

Replying to a question during an interview with an Atlanta station about whether the Ravens had a bounty out on Mendenhall, whose shoulder was broken on a clean hit by middle linebacker Ray Lewis during the Steelers' 23-20 overtime win at Heinz Field, Suggs said: "Definitely, the bounty was out on him and the bounty was out on Hines. We just didn't get him between the whistles."

Suggs later retracted those comments in a statement and avoided saying anything similarly inflammatory involving Ward on Wednesday as the Ravens began practicing for Sunday's game against the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.

"I wasn't even on there to talk about it, those guys brought it up," Suggs said. "I think Hines took it the way he was supposed to. We don't want to harm anybody, especially us as football players because this glorious game we play is so dangerous. I don't think anybody wants to hurt anybody."

Suggs also acknowledged that he's under strict orders to not talk about Ward.

"I can't say anything about him this week because of the stuff that happened and because we're playing them," Suggs said. "I'm being totally honest. I can't give you what you deserve. There's nothing to stir up. We're playing them this week, so I'm not going to downgrade him at this point."

Ward seems to relish his marked man status.

When asked by Pittsburgh reporters if he was Baltimore's most hated opponent, Ward said: "I'm pretty sure. It feels good."

Despite the heated rivalry between these teams, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he isn't expecting anything extracurricular outside the rulebook to transpire.

"These guys are professionals," Tomlin said in a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "Our guys know that there's no room for shenanigans."

And Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who counseled outside linebacker Jarret Johnson for drawing a costly personal foul in the first game in Pittsburgh for retaliating and shoving Ward out of bounds, isn't expecting trouble.

"Our guys understand just like their guys understand that there's way more at stake than pettiness like that," Harbaugh said. "It's going to be a very physical football game, and that's what we're getting ready to play."

TRAINING ROOM: Eight Ravens didn't practice Wednesday, but Harbaugh seems to be concerned the most with rookie running back Ray Rice's shin contusion.

Although he said he's feeling better, Rice was limping noticeably at the Ravens' training complex. He was on crutches earlier this week.

"I know he's got a contusion, and it's a bad one," Harbaugh said. "He's got a big bruise on his upper shin. It's a painful deal.

Meanwhile, running back Willis McGahee, who suffered a shoulder stinger and a mild concussion during a 24-10 victory over the Washington Redskins while rushing for just 32 yards on 11 carries and losing a fumble, didn't practice for undisclosed personal reasons. He wasn't listed on the injury report as being hurt.

Wide receivers Mark Clayton (knee) and Derrick Mason (left dislocated shoulder), return specialist Yamon Figurs (left knee bruise), safeties Ed Reed (hamstring) and Jim Leonhard (illness) and kicker Matt Stover (ankle) didn't practice.

INSURANCE: Just in case Rice and McGahee are unavailable, the Ravens signed running back Jalen Parmale off the Miami Dolphins' practice squad Tuesday and placed defensive tackle Lamar Divens (shoulder) on injured reserve.

The Ravens have been aware of the rookie sixth-round pick from Toledo for a while, scouting him prior to the draft. Parmale rushed for 1,511 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior last year.

"We felt like he was the best player out there on practice squads that we could bring in," Harbaugh said. "We've been kind of studying him all year. He plays special teams.

"He's a quality running back, we think, a young and up-and-coming player. There's a chance that he can help us here the last three weeks with our injury situation at running back, so we're pleased to have him."

HOMELAND SECURITY: Count Mason among the growing list of NFL players who agree with Miami Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter's assertion that professional athletes need to arm themselves with guns for self-preservation.

Guns have become a hot topic around the league ever since New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg at a nightclub and was subsequently suspended by the Giants as well as facing felony criminal charges.

"We have a right to bear arms," Mason said. "If you choose to have a firearm in your home, then have one. To carry it around, that's kind of putting yourself at risk and other people at risk. I'm not going to back down and sugarcoat it. I'm with Joey in a sense: I should have the right to bear arms.

"I'm going to protect my household. If you come in, then you have to deal with the repercussions. But to bring one outside the home, that's not smart. I wouldn't do it, but I'm going to be honest with you: I've got a right to bear arms, so deal with it."

Mason also said that NFL players or any other wealthy people can become targets for criminals, especially during this depressed economy.

"Everyone is struggling and everyone is trying to find a way to make a dollar, and it seems like it's getting worse," he said. "Before, we thought it was just us. No, it's not us anymore. "It's anybody that they think will h ave a little money and they're going to try to find any means necessary to get the upper hand. You've got to watch your back. Use that amendment right and bear arms in your household, that's all I can say."

ON THE MEND: Nose guard Kelly Gregg proclaimed himself as being on target to be running by spring minicamps following a successful microfracture knee surgery that ended his season.

"It went good, I'm feeling great and I'm getting better," he said. "The doctors told me I bled good during surgery, so that was good. "It's been hard not being out there with the guys, but I'm happy for them. You've got to play the hand you're dealt."

QUICK HITS: Reed was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after intercepting two passes and returning a fumble for a touchdown against the Redskins. "I'm just doing my job," he said. "I've been given this gift, and I'm just trying to utilize it." ... The Steelers held out Ward, running back Willie Parker, defensive end Aaron Smith and cornerback Deshea Townsend for non-injury reasons as Tomlin gave the veteran starters a day off. Also not practicing: running back Carey Davis (calf), defensive end Brett Keisel (knee), safety Troy Polamalu (calf) and offensive tackle Marvel Smith (back). ... Suggs pleaded with Ravens fans to not sell their tickets to Steelers fans. "They did do that a couple years ago, they sold their tickets to Pittsburgh fans, the ultimate disrespect," he said. "Don't sell your tickets. This is probably one you might want to be in attendance for. You might want to see this one go down."

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


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