Notebook: Ravens not too banged-up

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens are relatively healthy as they begin preparations for Sunday's AFC road showdown against the New England Patriots.   Tight end L.J. Smith didn't aggravate his pulled left hamstring, catching a pass and playing on special teams during a 34-3 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Although obviously limited by a left shoulder injury, outside linebacker Jarret Johnson made it through the game.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh indicated Monday that a few players suffered concussions against the Browns, but declined to elaborate since he doesn't have to file an injury report with the league office until Wednesday. The Ravens didn't report any injuries after the game.

Harbaugh said that the head injuries weren't incurred by players who had already experienced a concussion this season, which includes cornerback Fabian Washington, safeties Ed Reed and Tom Zbikowski and linebacker Terrell Suggs.

"We've got a few concussions that we're dealing with," Harbaugh said. "We're just going to see how that goes during the week. You worry about the concussions because you don't know exactly where those are going to go."

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis suffered a stinger during the game when he was hit by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, but returned after one snap.

Lewis received treatment after the game and didn't conduct interviews.

When the Ravens substituted for Lewis late in the game, he wasn't happy about it.

"I've got Ray on the sideline when we took him out and he's telling me he doesn't want to be out," Harbaugh said. "He wants to be out there playing.

"It's not like college where we've got 80 guys and we can put the whole twos in there and keep the ones safe from injury. You try to be smart with guys who have injuries and stuff like that and do the best you can with it."

Smith caught a 26-yard pass during his first regular-season game with Baltimore, an encouraging sign.

"When he came off after catching that pass, a few guys were checking out his hamstring to make sure he was all right," Harbaugh said. "Having fun with him because that's how we do it, have a thick skin. He laughed.

"It's good to have him back. He's a guy that can be a force for us. He can play as a wide receiver. He can play as a tight end. He's a really versatile guy and he can play special teams. He's going to be important for us."

KRUGER STILL WAITING: Rookie second-round outside linebacker-defensive end Paul Kruger has yet to be activated for a game this season, and his agent denied speculation that Kruger has refused to play on special teams.

"What was reported is completely untrue, unprofessional and inaccurate," said David Canter, Kruger's agent, in a telephone interview Monday night. "At no point in time has Paul said he doesn't want to play on special teams. He has gone to the coaching staff on multiple occasions and said, 'I'll do whatever it takes to play as much as possible.' He has offered to change positions or play tight end or on every special team. The last thing Paul wants to do is be a distraction to a team that's 3-0 and one of the elite teams.

"That's why he asked me to resolve this and hopefully it goes away. Whether he played on special teams in college or didn't play it in college, the team obviously felt strongly enough about him to draft him with the 57th overall pick. Obviously, they have a game plan for him. He's behind a multiple Pro Bowl player. Barring injuries, there's no way he's going to play in front of Terrell Suggs at this time."

Plus, outside linebacker Antwan Barnes has played well on special teams and as a defensive reserve.

"At some point in time, he's going to be really important to us," Harbaugh said of Kruger. "He's going to be up and active and playing in a game. Until that time, he's important to us for what he's doing in practice. Paul has a great future. He works really hard at it, and he's a good football player."

SQUARING OFF: It's no secret that Harbaugh is a big admirer of Patriots coach Bill Belichick. And he often speaks glowingly of the mentoring he's received from New England special-teams guru Scott O'Brien.

When asked about the matchup between himself and Belichick, Harbaugh jokingly said that he's confident that he could take him.

"The good thing about this game is that the coaches won't be lining up and teeing off on each other," Harbaugh said. "I don't think anybody would pay to see that right now. I'd like to say that I think I' d have the edge, though. In a hamburger drill, I think I'd have the edge. Coach may not think that.

"We've got great respect obviously for everything that's been accomplished up there by their coaches and their team. There's no more competitive group to go against than those guys. They're edgy and they're battlers, and so are we. So, it's going to be a great matchup."

QUICK HITS: Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk drew high marks from the coaching staff for his work grappling with Browns super heavyweight nose guard Shaun "Big Baby" Rogers. Rogers was credited with three tackles, one for a loss. "It was a heck of a battle," Harbaugh said. "Shaun got a few good shoves in there, and Matt got a few good pushes in there. It maybe was a stalemate, which is about the best you can do against a player like that. For a center to be able to neutralize a premier nose guard in this league like Matt did, that says a lot." ... One week after allowing 436 passing yards against the San Diego Chargers, the defense held the Browns to 126 passing yards and intercepted four passes. "Our guys did a really nice job of maintaining their level of play in the face of some criticism," Harbaugh said. "They came under scrutiny a little bit because of the statistics and maybe they felt like they had something to prove. They're going to have something to prove next week, too." ... Pro Bowl special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo had an interception, a sack and four tackles against the Browns. His playing time on defense has been increased markedly, especially in nickel packages. "Now, he's becoming a real asset defensively to us," Harbaugh said. "He's basically on the field for all of our sub packages. When people put three wide receivers on the field, he's out there. He matches up because of his speed. He's playing all of the packages well. He's got the complete array of calls. He knows them all. He just plays really fast. It's not too often that you'll find a really good special teams player when he gets his chance on defense or offense that doesn't play well." ... ... Harbaugh said he had nothing new to report on the status of cornerback Samari Rolle, who's on the physically unable to perform list with a chronic neck injury that required surgery.


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