Notebook: Washington a question mark

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens starting cornerback Fabian Washington isn't regarded as a lock to play in Sunday's AFC wild-card game against the Miami Dolphins due to an injured toe that sidelined him for the regular-season finale. Washington was held out of the Ravens' 27-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

While Washington's condition has improved, Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn't guarantee that the Ravens' fastest defensive back would play this week.

"He's doing well, we're hopeful," Harbaugh said. "I don't know if we can expect it, but we're hopeful that he'll be there."

Harbaugh was similarly noncommittal on the status of rookie running back Ray Rice, who has missed the past three games with a shin contusion on his left leg.

Rice has resumed practicing and said the swelling in his leg has subsided.

"He's doing better, but again I was hoping Ray would be back last week," Harbaugh said. "I was hoping he'd be back the week before. So, we continue to hope that he'll be back this week. I'm very hopeful."

Meanwhile, the Ravens have decided to not place reserve outside linebacker Antwan Barnes on injured reserve yet with a chest injury suffered against the Dallas Cowboys. Barnes is dealing with a strained left pectoral muscle and told the Times recently that he will not be able to play again this year, including the playoffs.

The Ravens want to hold a roster spot for Barnes in case he recovers for the postseason.

"Antwan Barnes, we're going to take a shot at trying to get him back," Harbaugh said. "We feel like there's a chance we can get Antwan back. There were some different tests over the last weekend, and we're hopeful that we can get Antwan back."

RYAN IN DEMAND?: One year after defensive coordinator Rex Ryan interviewed for head coaching jobs with the Ravens, the Atlanta Falcons and the Dolphins, he's expected to hit the interview circuit again and has already been rumored as a candidate for several vacancies.

Harbaugh has had a discussion with Ryan about how to handle his career prospects and endorsed his friend Monday.

"Rex Ryan is going to be a great head coach in the NFL, without a doubt," Harbaugh said. "He's got all the talent, all the ability to do it. I'm hoping Rex Ryan is here for many, many years to come and maybe that's been a part of our conversation.

"I know one thing: His focus right now is squarely and securely on the Miami Dolphins, and that's the only thing he's thinking about. That's just the kind of guy he is."

LATERALS: During television replays, it looked like Harbaugh and Ryan issued a stern sideline lecture to free safety Ed Reed after he lateraled following the first of his two interceptions.

Smiling, Harbaugh declined to reveal what message he delivered to the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year who has intercepted eight passes in the past six games.

"That's privileged information," Harbaugh said. "Ed Reed is going to do everything he can to win a football game. We discuss strategy sometimes about what might be the best approach to doing that."

Reed apparently didn't listen to the coaches if they told him not to lateral anymore because he lateraled it again after his second interception.

"You can't say what we said or what we didn't say, what our strategy was," Harbaugh said. "It's tactical."

When asked if Reed makes him nervous, Harbaugh replied with a question.

"What difference does it make if it makes me nervous or not?" he said. "It's not going to matter.

TURNING IT AROUND: Not much was expected of the Ravens or the Dolphins after they went 5-11 and 1-15, respectively, last season.

With new coaches and new quarterbacks, they've unexpectedly found themselves in the playoffs.

"Predictors and prognosticators make such bold statements about who's going to do what," Harbaugh said. "There's no way to make those predictions in this league. Everybody in this league is really good. Any team from one year to the next can rise up and have a good year. There's a real fine line."

HISTORICAL FEAT: The Ravens became the first team since the 1962 Green Bay Packers to go an entire season without allowing more than 13 points in a game at home as opponents averaged just 10.0 points at M&T Bank Stadium this year.

"What a credit to that defense and all our guys," Harbaugh said. "I think that speaks for itself. To be in a category like that, that's historic and it's a credit to our guys."

QUICK HITS: Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his involvement in an altercation at the close of the first half. "I didn't see it, but Haloti explained what happened and he felt like he was wrong," Harbaugh said. "He felt like he could've done better in that situation, and so we had to try to overcome the 15 yards. ... Harbaugh defended his decision to not rest the starters until the fourth quarter, referencing how the Jaguars trailed by less than three touchdowns. "We felt at that point in time they had a chance to get back into that football game," he said. "Things can turn quickly in this league, and we weren't going to do anything to jeopardize the outcome of this football game." ... When a reporter informed Harbaugh that a friend of his said that he didn't know if Harbaugh could coach but that he had great assistants, Harbaugh quipped: "I'm not sure how to take that. Who's that guy? I'd like to get his name. He needs to start doing his homework. The point is well taken. We do have a great staff." ... Harbaugh credited the fans for creating a raucous M&T Bank Stadium. "The decibel level was outrageous and the excitement in the crowd was tremendous," he said. ... Running back Willis McGahee has scored touchdowns in the past two games and looks more explosive than he did earlier this season. "He's always been a big part of our plans, and I think he's exactly where we hoped he would be and thought he would be," Harbaugh said. "He's playing really well for us."

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

Dec. 30: McGahee sounds off

By Aaron Wilson

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee made some mildly controversial remarks in an interview Monday with Sporting News Radio. Here's a transcript of his comments:

On why he hasn't been healthy this year: "I tried to do something different this year. They wanted me to come in lighter and I tried to come in lighter, so I relaxed on the weights because the more weights I lift the heavier I get... so I relaxed on that and just tried to work on conditioning, but it didn't work out so well this year. So I'm just going go ahead and do what I've been doing for the past couple of years and just work out and be Willis McGahee."

On his diminished production: "yeah, I tried to be someone else's running back this year and it didn't work out."

On if he felt like he needed to change his game: "naw, I didn't want to change it, but when you have a new coach and they've got a perception of you, you've got to try and change to stay on the good side of them."

On his thoughts on the future, offseason: "I don't know what this offseason is going to bring. It's been a crazy year for me with the talks of me not being there next year but regardless, I'm just going to go out there and play for me... I can't play for nobody else but me."

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

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